One of the big reasons that most NBA experts think the Thunder are going to beat the Heat: Oklahoma City has figured out a go-to crunch time play that no one can stop.
HoopSpeak’s Beckley Mason and Brett Koremenos referred to it as OKC’s “unstoppable play” in their preview today. Grantland’s Sebastian Pruiti dissected the play in exhaustive detail last week. And this morning, SI’s Zach Lowe called in Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen to try to figure out how in the world to stop this thing.
To a casual observer, the play doesn’t look all the special:
It has three basic elements.
- Russell Westbrook brings up the ball passes to James Harden on the left wing.
- Westbrook sets a down screen on Kevin Durant’s man with Durant isolated on the low right block.
- Durant curls off the screen toward the ball.
It’s simple, but it leaves the defence with three terrible options:
- If you don’t switch the Westbrook-Durant down screen, Durant can get where he wants on the floor and catch-and-shoot for an easy mid-range jumper.
- If you switch the Westbrook-Durant screen, Durant finds himself guarded by a point guard who he can either shoot over or take to the basket.
- If you try and front Durant to make it impossible for Westbrook to set a down screen, Durant can cut backdoor and get an easy lay-up.
The Heat are a great defensive team in the halfcourt. So it’s unlikely that this play will be as successful as it was against the Spurs.
But if OKC can use this play in the fourth quarter like they did against San Antonio, Miami will really have to step up their offensive output in late-game situations.
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