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Thunder Film Room: Westbrook passing magic wins the day

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The Thunder's dominant win over Minnesota was highlighted by some superb Westbrook passing. Here is one of his best!

© Mark D. Smith

The Thunder's beatdown of the Timberwolves Saturday night was convincing for a variety of reasons. Russell Westbrook, the hotheaded/overlyemotional/loosecanon/OKCcanneverwinwithoutarealpointguard point guard, recorded a triple-double a game after getting ejected from their win against the Mavericks. There were a number of jaw-dropping passes in Westbrook's arsenal that night, but the one that stood out to me is the one below.

It is during little moments like this that I have to remember that Westbrook has come an incredibly long way from his college days where he could barely throw an entry pass, let alone do this. While some may argue there's a little too much HOT DOG in such a play, to me this is the kind of flair that the best point guards, in total control of their game and their offense, can do.

After receiving the bailout pass from Dion Waiters, Westbrook resets and attacks. Once he beats his man off the dribble, he has three shooters in his field of vision, and all of them are open. Not only that, but in the left corner is Serge Ibaka (currently shooting 60% from the left corner) Kevin Durant, who, you know...and last but not least, in the right corner is Waiters who has, shall we say, been searching for consistency.

In one deft move, Westbrook, clearly fully aware of all of his options:

  1. Collapses the lane defense;
  2. Fakes a behind-the-back pass to Ibaka;
  3. Fakes a second pass to Durant on the wing;
  4. Westbrook delivers the real no-look pass to Dion a split second before committing a traveling violation.

Now, before you jump to the conclusion of, "hey, how great a PG can he be if he's choosing the worst shooter of the bunch," I'd say, well, that's valid. But I would also say that it was ultimately the best and safest pass to make, as the behind-the-back-no-look-pass is never the most optimal play, and Durant's defender Andrew Wiggins could have jumped the passing lane, leading to a dunk at the other end. In other words, you could reasonably argue that Westbrook knew exactly where he wanted to go with the pass, given degree of difficulty, and every movement up to the ultimate pass was designed to remove some element of the Timberwolves defense that could have adjusted to defend Waiters' shot.

Furthermore, there are lots of fun little things about this play worth pointing out.

A. Durant's "Johnny Drama" victory pose

Yep, he raises his arms even before Dion launches the shot.

VICTORY!

B. Andre Roberson with the veteran "towel slap" move

Always a good go-to celebration move, even if I have no idea how the move came about.

C. The rookie with the "Bernie Lean"

We know that Cameron Payne loves to dance. Oh how he loves to dance.

D. Dion Waiters, shot-maker

Last but not least, we have Dion Waiters. Sometimes I have the greatest admiration, not for the flair, but the discipline of consistency. What strikes me about Dion's shot is not what he does, but what he doesn't do. There is proper footwork, no pump-fake, no deep-knee bend, no fade, just perfectly balanced vertical jump with the release point on his way up.

Economy of motion. It is beautiful. He's practically Morrow-esque.