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Thunder three ball: how Oklahoma City finally found the three point shot vs the Wizards

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The Thunder shot a remarkable 18-23 from beyond the arc against the Wizards. How did they get it done?

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder's dominating win over the Wizards in Washington was Oklahoma City's second straight win where they put their full talents on display. Despite the loss of Kevin Durant at the end of the first half due to a hamstring pull, the Thunder were still able to score 125 points on the night, including an uncommon shooting 18-23 from 3-point range. Given that we have argued in the past that the Thunder's 3-point attack leaves something to be desired, this kind of shooting performance is a sweet vintage to sip from.

But how did OKC do it? Did Billy Donovan incorporate new play sets, did guys just get hot from long range, or something else? How are the Thunder, historically middle-of-the-road long range bombers, suddenly leading the league in 3-point shooting?

Breaking it down, I saw generally three different types of 3-point shots being produced.

1. The Durant/Westbrook 3-point standard

These shots don't need any deep analysis or video examination. Both of those guys are going to take on average anywhere between 4-6 3-pointers per game. Russell Westbrook will make about 30% of them, and Durant will make around 40% of them. To be sure, they'll have better games and worse games, and on last night's performance, they both shot what they always do, but made them at a higher clip (5-6 combined).

Also, the pair will generate a number of open looks in fast break transition, such as this made shot from dynamo Kyle Singler:

2. The corner-3

This shot is, as many statisticians have argued, the most valuable shot in the game, after a layup/dunk. Not only is it a closer shot by one foot, nine inches, but sticking shooters in the corners creates the most amount of spacing, allowing other shot-creators to work. With two playmakers like Westbrook and Durant, it is critical for OKC to have effective corner-shooting threats on the court at all times.

While some teams employ creative concepts to generate these open looks, for the most part, corner-3 attempts are about good spacing and quick passing. More often than not, the corner-3 guy just kind of parks himself beyond the arc and waits for the action to unfold.

In this first play, the Westbrook/Durant high pick and roll initiates the action. It is a straightforward yet useful play because it is both structured and improvisational. Durant can set the screen on either side, and he has essentially the same options either way. Because Durant's man sets out to the left, slipping the screen to the right creates an easy 2 on 1 situation. Wizards big man Kris Humphries has to cover Durant's drive, which leaves Serge Ibaka wide open.

On this second Ibaka corner-3, he does a great job moving without the ball into the near corner. Props to Andre Roberson for taking two defenders out of the play.

As you can see from the shot chart below, OKC generated 7 of their 23 3-point attempts from the corners. This is a positive sign, because the 3's above the break, especially at the corners, are most likely to fluctuate from game to game. For this particular game, the Thunder shot unusually well from the wings above the break.

3. Using the middle man

The Thunder have never been privileged with a great passing big man in the mold of a Tim Duncan or Pau Gasol, but one of the early improvements I've seen this year is in using both Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter to be able to find the open shooter from the post position.

Ibaka in particular has shown remarkable growth in his ability to catch in traffic and know where his shooters are.

In this second clip, the play once again emerges out of a pick and roll, this time between DJ Augustin and Enes Kanter. When Dion Waiters' man crashes on Kanter, Kanter easily pivots to find Waiters open.

To conclude, the Thunder did a lot of things right to find open shooters against the Wizards, even discounting the fact that Washington's defense is a bit of a mess right now. Coupled with some above average shooting above the break, you get a dominant 3-point shooting night from OKC.