If you’ve watched the Thunder this year then you know this play. They run it once every game and usually can get an easy two for Kevin Durant out of it.
Last night at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, head coach Scott Brooks called for it after the six-minute time out of the third quarter coming out of commercial. The play works most obviously when the defense isn’t ready and is lulled into a sort of sleep.
The Thunder don’t run a lot of complex sets but do have a couple of quick-hitting plays they can strike with and this may be their best one.
The play begins with Russell Westbrook bringing the ball up on the right side of the floor and immediately passing to the two-guard on the right wing. Durant is in the opposite corner and Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are near the elbow.
After the pass, Westbrook cuts through the paint and Daequan Cook passes to Perkins on the three-point arc.
Westbrook then comes back up to the left wing from an Ibaka downscreen. The Thunder do this a lot either to then run pick-and-roll with Westbrook on the wing or to set up Durant coming off a downscreen.
On this play when Westbrook gets the pass from Perkins, Ibaka does not set a screen for westbrook and instead spaces the floor to the left corner. The next action the Thunder show is Perkins coming down to set a screen for Durant who is now on the right block. Another key to the play is Westbrook receiving the pass far outside the three-point line so that there is no defender in his face.
Durant acts like he is going to come up off the screen and goes backdoor. The timing between Westbrook and Durant on this play has been on point all season. Defenders often faceguard Durant when he’s working the baseline about to come off screens which makes it easy for him to slip backdoor. His defender is waiting to get hit with a Perkins pick instead of playing Durant straight up.
The scouting report on Oklahoma City is always to basically double Durant coming off screens and this makes defenders play Durant this way when he is running off them. On normal plays this usually opens up shots for Ibaka or Perkins after Durant catches the pass coming off a screen. When Oklahoma City moves their bigs to the perimeter for this play there is absolutely no help for Durant.
After this play is run successfully it helps Durant with the rest of his game coming off screens. His defender now is respecting his back-cut and can’t cheat as much up on him to make it tough for him to come off screens.