The Thunder found themselves down by five with 46 seconds left in overtime against the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night.
The Thunder cut that deficit to three with just over 30 seconds left then made a great defensive stop to force a turnover and give themselves a chance to tie the game and send it into another overtime.
With 16.1 seconds left and trailing 129-126, James Harden inbounded from half court for the Thunder. The play had Kevin Durant set up at the right (near) elbow, Russell Westbrook on the far wing, Derek Fisher in the far corner and Nick Collison on the near block.
From this set up the Thunder could have done a number of things. Earlier in regulation, Durant already hit a three in the final seconds after isolating at the top of the key and taking Anthony Tolliver off the dribble. Minnesota was probably expecting that again.
Durant comes to the ball and receives the inbound from Harden. Instead of isolating his man, Durant hands back to Harden who takes his dribble to the top of the key as Durant fades to the right wing.
Collison comes up to set a back screen on Durant’s man who is playing him very close and isn’t in good position to see Collison coming until it is too late. Kevin Love, who is guarding Collison, has a lot of space between him. With Harden at the top of the key there is still a chance that the Thunder may be going for a quick two, so Love can’t sell out on helping Durant.
This is a mistake as Harden delivers a perfect feed to Durant in the corner and Love is late getting too him.
Standing at 7-foot tall, Durant only needs a moment to get a clean look at the rim and stroke the three that would tie the game and send it into another overtime.
I like this play by the Thunder mainly because of the fact that they actually ran a play instead of just relying on isolation scoring. With Harden coming to the top of the key and time still remaining for the possible quick two, the set was designed nicely for Minnesota to not really know what was coming.
Harden is very good at the type of pass he hit Durant with which is the same pass he signaturely pulls off on the OKC skip pass play between him and Daequan Cook. Westbrook may not have been the right guy to make that pass and was a better decoy threat on the opposite wing playing off the ball.
Brooks did a good job in the overtimes using Harden’s playmaking ability to help win this game. Harden and his passing is going to be a crucial ingredient for any type of playoff run the Thunder can potentially pull off later this year.