The Thunder are one of the best teams in the league. This is no secret.
They and head coach Scott Brooks have a reputation for not running good offensive sets. While this may be true overall, it doesn’t mean the Thunder don’t have some money plays they use to get easy baskets.
Here is a play the Thunder showed for the first time this season last night against the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder were having their way with Golden State and putting on quite a highlight show in the first half.
With 3:22 left in the first half Russell Westbrook advanced the ball across halfcourt to set up the offense.
It’s a basic play where Kevin Durant and James Harden both cross and come off downscreens on the wing. The Thunder do this a lot for Durant and Harden to either get them looks for open jump shots or in position on the wing to attack the basket.
Serge Ibaka sets the screen for Durant on the left side of the floor and Nazr Mohammed sets the screen for Harden on the right.
Westbrook passes off to Durant whose man, Klay Thompson, is trailing over the screen and Durant curls the screen to get in position to attack the rim. Again this happens a lot for the Thunder when they run Durant off screens. Durant’s defender tries not to go under so that he can take away the jump shot and wait for help on Durant’s catch.
Durant will usually get the jump shot if it is there or look for the screener rolling to the rim if he is doubled or immediately pass back to Westbrook if his man also helps.
On the opposite side of the floor we see Harden fading into the corner instead of up to the wing like he normally would. Also, Mohammed does not stay on the opposite block and instead clears out to the left block near Ibaka.
By this point we know it isn’t a normal play for the Thunder. On the catch Durant is already waiting for Harden to sneak backdoor for the designed lob. Harden’s man, Stephen Curry isn’t in good position and loses sight of Harden here as his body is fully turned toward Durant as he receives the ball.
The timing is right and it’s a highlight for the Thunder as Harden sneaks behind Curry for the pass and finishes strong with his sneaky athleticism.
This is the first time I have seen the Thunder go to this specific lob play. It was a designed play out of a timeout and something that the Thunder staff obviously thought would work.
The Thunder don’t run a ton of stuff so it is easy to get lulled to sleep defending them while expecting to just watch Durant and Westbrook go one-on-one on most possessions. Brooks has done a great job this season taking advantage of this and getting a lob or two every game for Oklahoma City.