Last night's 110-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets was the first time we got to see KD in a clutch situation since early November. Back then, one of the main criticisms of Durant and Westbrook was that they ignored their teammates in clutch situations. I wrote an article about the very subject, specifically highlighting some poor decisions made during the Chicago and Toronto losses.
Have Durant and Westbrook improved since early November? Absolutely. Down the stretch of last night's game against the Nets, KD and Westbrook were actively giving looks to Ibaka and Waiters. Some looks came as a result of good decision making, while others came as a result of offensive sets. Either way, the result was superb, as the Thunder went on a 17-4 run that basically sealed the game.
Let's take a look at how it happened.
Play 1: KD Pull-up Three in semi-transition
This is a shot that KD needs to take every single time. Bargnani is one of the slowest defenders in the league, so it's easy to get a shot off on him when he's out of position. Durant, meanwhile, is the master of the off-the-dribble pull-up three. I know this isn't KD trusting his teammates yet, but it's a good shot and it started off the run.
Play 2: Missed Dion Waiters 3 from KD/Westbrook Pick and Roll
This one was a bit disheartening. Westbrook runs around a KD screen and it double teamed. Westbrook bounce passes through the double team to the rolling KD. KD is met in the post by Joe Johnson. KD recognizes Waiters wide open in the corner and makes the pass. Waiters clanks the three, but it was still the correct shot to take. Credit goes to Durant for deferring after hitting such a crucial three.
Play 3: KD finds Waiters in transition
Joe Johnson misses a three, and Westbrook rebounds the ball. Thaddeus Young, the Nets power forward, committed to the offensive rebound and is now behind on defense. Westbrook recognizes this, and passes the ball to KD.
KD receives the ball in the paint. Joe Johnson must meet him to stop the easy basket. KD, recognizing Waiters open in the corner again, decides to make the pass. Splash. Excellent trust shown by KD, after Waiters had missed a three from that same spot last possession.
Play 4: Serge Ibaka gets a free dunk at the rim
This play starts off as Westbrook going to the rim around an Ibaka screen. But the Nets sensed that, and committed two defenders to stop Westbrooks drive. Smartly, Westbrook pulls out of the situation and resets.
With all of the defenders back on their man, Ibaka sets a slip screen for Westbrook. Lopez and Jack don't anticipate this, and attempt to crowd Westbrook. This leaves Ibaka free to fly to the rim.
Excellent decision making and trust shown by Westbrook here.
Play 5: KD gets free for three
This play starts with the Thunder's main scorers all near the top of the key, swarming. Eventually, Ibaka sets a high slip screen, and immediately runs to the basket.
As Ibaka rolls to the hoop, KD steps up to screen out Ibaka's man, Lopez. This leaves Ibaka free to roll to the hoop, but....
Thaddeus Young read the play. Young prevented the easy score at the rim by staying low, but KD is a dangerous player. Given just a bit of space, KD easily spots up for the catch and shoot three. Great offensive read by Westbrook again.
Play 6: Westbrook/Ibaka pick and roll for Waiters three
This play starts out with an egregiously illegal Serge Ibaka screen. Ibaka immediately rolls to the basket. KD stands as a decoy, ready to pop out for a three as he did the last possession.
Ibaka rolls to the rim, and he's met by Joe Johnson. Meanwhile, Westbrook is double-teamed by Lopez and Jack. This left Waiters wide open in the corner, and Westbrook found him with a lazer pass. The three was cash, and the Thunder were up 13.
At this point, the run stopped, and OKC fumbled a few more possessions before winning the game at the free throw line. But the few fumbled possessions were promising. After KD missed a heat check three, Westbrook got it stolen trying to find Morrow in the corner. Then, Waiters missed a open three after running around a KD-Ibaka double screen. In other words, the role players were getting opportunities, and every single player was a threat. The plays weren't overly complex, but they were new, they had options and they worked.
The most interesting thing about this run is that it occurred with a small lineup. The small lineup worked particularly well defensively in this instance. Earlier in the game, Lopez and Bargnani were pick and popping Adams and Kanter to death. Donovan had to defensively match up, and putting the quick yet strong Ibaka at center proved to be the effective way.
But defense wasn't the only positive aspect of the lineup. Having Durant at power forward was very effective, because he had Thaddeus Young on him. Young is quick for a power forward, but not as quick as Durant. Furthermore, having Waiters and Morrow to space the floor can really open things up in the paint. Lastly, as a whole, the unit was very quick to get up the floor. That's at least partially responsible for the run.
This lineup is by no means a catch-all. At times we'll need Kanter's paint scoring and rebounding, or Adams' defense and energy. But I wouldn't be surprised to see this lineup in clutch situations, especially when it comes to the more versatile shooting-oriented teams in the West. Golden State, dare I say it?
Anyway, on this Thanksgiving, let's give thanks for Billy Donovan's new offense. It's bound to help the Thunder through some rough roads ahead.