The Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half to beat the Washington Wizards 105-103 Wednesday night.
The Thunder’s two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, combined for 66 points, including the game-winning layup from Westbrook in overtime.
As exciting as the finish was, it was more of a lapse from the Wizards’ defence than an incredible move by Westbrook to get open for such an easy shot. He basically went 40 feet uncontested for an open layup in two seconds:
At the start of the play, the Thunder run a pretty basic action to get Durant open. Thunder big man Steven Adams sets a pin-down screen on Paul Pierce to try and get Durant open space at the top of the key. Dion Waiters sits in the corner, ignored, and Westbrook is running to half-court, basically as a bail-out option if Durant doesn’t get open.
The Wizards used a simple defensive scheme to guard Durant — Wizards’ big man, Nene, switched onto Durant as he got open, leaving Pierce to stick with Adams. Meanwhile, Westbrook is beyond half-court, basically a non-threat to do anything with 3.6 seconds left.
This is part of the problem with the Thunder’s late-game execution: they’re going to get the ball into Durant (primarily) or Westbrook’s hands and let them create. It makes sense, given both players’ offensive talent, but defenses know it’s coming.
The Thunder, in dire circumstances, probably could’ve hit Adams rolling to the basket while Pierce recovers, or swung it to Waiters in the corner, who John Wall was barely paying attention to.
In this particular case, the defence was clearly keyed in on Durant, who had scored seven points in OT. Bradley Beal, who was guarding Westbrook — who, again, was basically a second option if Durant couldn’t get open — relaxed for just a second. Westbrook took advantage, and made a cut to the basket, and got the ball with the Wizards’ defence entirely unprepared for him.
Westbrook now has a head full of steam going to the basket. Beal is a non-factor. Wall has to be wary of collapsing on Westbrook and leaving Waiters wide open for a corner 3. Pierce is rotating on Adams to stop an even more open layup (though he should have made stopping the ball a priority). Nene is a slow big man who can’t keep up with Westbrook.
Westbrook got right to the hoop, uncontested.
The Thunder have been heavily criticised for the simplicity of their late-game play-calling, but this play shows the power of having two superstars. Defenses have to be wary of two great scorers, and ultimately, the Wizards keyed in on Durant, fell asleep on Westbrook, and gave the Thunder likely their easiest game-winner of the season.
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