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Fight Fire with Thunder

OKC has a better version of Golden State's inverted pick and roll.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the closest the core four (that's KD, Russ, Ibaka, and Nick Collison to you) have come to a championship was Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals. Durant had produced a season that left us wondering whether he was a better scorer than Jordan, bringing the team 59 wins, a second seed, and enough time for a healthy Russ to emerge, playoff-ready. Russ had shown out in the Clippers series against Chris "Flop" Paul, but the six-game series victory cost them - our Serge Protector was forced to sit out for the first two games of the Spurs series due to injury.

I don't even need to show the Spurs' shooting percentage at the rim for the first two games of the WCF, because it was probably 2000%. But in Game 6 of the series, Tony Parker sat out, and something amazing happened: the Spurs started to click. The Thunder, disoriented and out of sorts, eventually lost the series, and about two weeks later Pop & Co. announced the arrival of the "share the ball and move on offense era," trouncing the Heat on their way to a title. This happened multiple times in those Finals.

At this point, no one can discuss good basketball without referencing the number of passes and screens and dribble handoffs. Those plays are required reading now; to pull off the type of spectacle the Warriors are running, go back to the tape and watch how the Spurs perfected their system not even a week after beating down one of the fiercest Thunder teams ever assembled.

Ever since, we've thought that KD and Russ, and the OKC coaching staff are cheating themselves by not playing in a system like the ones in San Antonio, Oakland, and even Atlanta. Sure, coaching and egos may be the culprit, but perhaps the issue is not how well they incorporate the supporting cast, but instead how well they play with each other.

Unfortunately for them (and for us), they've only figured out how to play together, well, not unstoppably. And after two years of hearing about the sexiness of the Spurs and Warriors, I think the path to unstoppability starts with stealing a page from the book of a Warriors team that is secretly quaking in its boots at the thought of seeing us second round. Irony is great.


Right now, defending Stephen Curry demands a blitz (double team) at 35 feet when he runs a pick and roll with Draymond Green, who then has the luxury of racing to the rim at full speed, attacking with a four on three advantage.

Why does this offensive strategy absolutely slaughter teams? Because if Curry has even a wink of airspace, you will be met with death in a close game. Because Draymond leads all forwards in assists while LeBron James is still in the league. Because the Warriors' three-point shooters make it impossible to crash into the paint and deter the drive.

Now brace yourself for what our version of this system looks like.

Consider the inverted pick and roll. Pick and rolls typically involve a guard ball handler with a big man as the screen setter. Let's replace Curry with KD - he can drain his fair share of jumpers as well. Now, swap out Green for Russ, an abrasive alpha-dog that cannot be stopped in the open floor, especially with shooters spaced around him. Now picture KD running things as the de facto point guard while Russell operates as the secondary creator.

An offense based around that could bend the floor, taking the attention of all opposing defenders away from guys like Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, and Anthony Morrow, guys that can score when given daylight. Let the sun shine on them. What will defenders do when Russ catches the ball after KD passes out of a double team, and goes from 0 to 60 in one second flat?

Opt to defend the paint, and the other guys will be glad to can open shots after receiving a pass from Russ, who will be happy to get his assists. Go under the initial screen, and Durant gets to obliterate his man every time without ever having to cross either three point line during the game. Stick to dangerous shooters on the perimeter, and Russ will destroy the rim. You have picked your poison, Warriors.