Hey Thunder Nation!!!
Guess what? The Oklahoma City Thunder are win-less in their own division no more. It wasn’t always pretty vs the Timberwolves, but I will take a “W” over a “L” any day.
As we have seen many times this season, the Thunder started out strong. IMO, stronger than usual, in fact. In case you missed it, there were some new bells and whistles to the Thunder’s traditional high pick and roll that may give us a glimpse into the near future. (it better be near, this season is going by faster than recess back in my Elementary School days)
The result was Steven Adams’ best game as a pro, and hopefully the birth of a new and better alliance than the OK3, “The OKC 4.”
Of Adams’ eleven makes, 8 were assisted, 6 from Paul George alone. Therein lies the twist — creating for the Kiwi — and a possible secret to continued Thunder offensive success moving forward.
In his recap, J.A. Sherman showed us one of the Thunder’s new PnR twists:
Note the time of this play. Fourth quarter, a tad short of eight minutes remaining. Adams has averaged 8.5 shot attempts per game this season. Against the Timberwolves, he took eleven. Further, Adams has averaged only one shot attempt per game in the fourth quarter this season, but in the win Friday night, he took and made three.
That may not sound like a lot, but believe me, it’s huge. At 64.1% shooting, the Thunder’s 7 footer is the biggest threat (no pun intended) to opposing defenses when, or should I say if, he gets the ball.
The Thunder’s commitment to the big Kiwi had a subtle yet profound affect on the T-Wolves, as seen in the clip above. That play was designed for Paul George all the way, and it worked because George’s defender had to respect what looked like the Thunder’s traditional high PnR between Adams and Westbrook. That moment of pause created by Adams previous activity was all it took to get Paul George a wide open look.
Let me show you MY favorite play of the night:
This play is better understood from the courtside view:
This play appeals to my baseball roots because it is so similar to the pick-off move to second base called the “Daylight Play.” In baseball’s Daylight Play, the short-stop eases up behind a runner leading off from second base and flashes his glove toward second base from behind the runner. A predetermined signal from the pitcher will let the short-stop know the play is on and he immediately breaks toward second base. As soon as the pitcher sees daylight between the runner and the short-stop, he wheels and fires the ball to the runner’s side of second base. If run effectively, the Daylight Play is very very effective.
In the case of this play run by the Thunder, there are similar elements of timing and visual cues. Adams hard sells setting a pick for Felton, and as soon as Felton sees any part of Adam’s defender on Adam’s left side, which indicates the defender is switching, Felt fires the ball to Paul George who, without hesitation passes, the ball to a spot where Adams can catch and finish. For his part, Adams broke to the rim immediately when he saw Felton pass to George.
Patrick Patterson is in the corner on the right. Watch his defender’s reaction to the pass from Felton. When Adams breaks to the rim, 2Pat’s defender moves to defend Adams, but when Felton passes to George instead of lobbing to Adams, the defender reverses to cover a dangerous corner 3 threat, leaving Adams a wide open lane to finish the play.
Again, note the time of the play — second quarter, almost 2 minutes played. With Adams fully involved, the Thunder scored 8 points in just 2 minutes. The momentum led to 21 point Thunder lead midway through the second quarter. However, from the play seen above until the end of the 3rd quarter, Adam’s only took 2 shots and the Thunder’s 21 point lead dwindled to just six points.
Some may say that this is just a coincidence or too small a sample size, but Adam’s shots per quarter against the T-Wolves mirrored a correlation between the Thunder’s season average +/- per quarter and Adams’ average shots per quarter throughout the year.
Clearly, when the Thunder involve Adams in the offense, they are more effective and for the very simple reason already stated. He is the most dangerous threat to opposing defenses when he gets the ball in an offensive position. They cannot ignore him.
Take Sherman's favorite play of the game above. Were it not for the commitment George made earlier to involve Adams in the game, offensive involvement that resulted in that moment of pause that sprang George free, Sherman’s favorite play is probably a contested 3 rather than a wide open one.
It is no accident that Paul George’s second best scoring night as a Thunder coincided with his second best assist night. That’s what generally happens when 16 of a players 21 total shots go uncontested.
Again, note the time. Minnesota was trimming a point a minute off the Thunder’s once 21 point lead midway through the second quarter and this was Adams’ only shot in the Thunder’s worst scoring quarter.
Notice that the T-Wolves have adjusted and started packing the paint to stop Adams at this point and there are teams in the Thunder’s near future that will defend this better and prevent Adams from scoring, but take a peek at this still shot:
If some future opponent does force Adams to give up the rock, look who is standing wide open on the wing, the Thunder’s second best catch and shoot specialist, Carmelo Anthony. Just one more pass away.
Don’t misconstrue what I’m driving at. I am not trying to say that the Thunder should make Steven Adams the focal point of the offense. What I’m saying is that it is critical that he not be the forgotten one. By increasing Adams’ shot attempts to 3 or 4 per in the latter periods, the Thunder will go a long way toward keeping opposing defenses honest and maintaining that space that makes this team so dangerous in the first quarter.
Speaking of Carmelo
In 57 touches against the T-Wolves, Melo only took one contested shot and gave up the rock 48 times. Even though he only took a season low 7 attempts, Carmelo made the Timberwolves work.
Anthony is a force in the NBA. When he gets the ball, a team either adjusts or gets burned and in the case of the T-Wolves, it was at a 50% clip as Melo went 3 for 6 on uncontested shots.
From the tip-off, it was fairly obvious that Carmelo was not going to settle for contested shots and his passing, especially in the first quarter resulted in the Thunder’s largest point total for a single quarter this season.
Teams have to react when Melo gets the rock and then they have to re-adjust when he passes it. Fifty-seven touches plus forty-eight passes equals 105 adjustments in 29 minutes. That’s movement that the Thunder exploited early and capitalized on late, and a major factor in the team’s first win against a solid Northwest division opponent.
For utilizing the force of his presence and putting his team in front of his stat line, Carmelo Anthony is my unsung Thunder Hero of Friday’s win.
Thunders Next Challenge
The San Antonio Spurs, aka, Pop’s Perpetual Scoring Machine.
Since erasing a 23 point deficit and edging out the Thunder 104 to 101 on November 17th, the Spurs have won 5 of their last 6 games. The Thunder did a better job of hanging on to a lead against Minnesota after leading wire to wire, but the Spurs are not the T-Wolves on the second game of a back to back. Lose the last two frames to a fresh Spurs team like the Thunder did to a tired Minnesota squad and they will find themselves coming away with the short stick.
Til next time.....
When the T-Wolves cut the Thunder lead to 6 going into the 4th quarter, did you think the Thunder were about to blow another double-digit lead and lose?
This poll is closed
Yes, I admit it, I had no faith left.
NO!! Record, sm-ecord, the Thunder had it all the way.