The Thunder beat the Portland Trailblazers easily Tuesday night 109-95. They shot 57 percent from the field in the game and executed their offense as good as they have in a long time.
The Thunder looked like a team that had been playing together forever while Portland looked like a bunch of guys playing together for the first time.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points in the game on 10-of-14 shooting. He didn’t miss a shot in the first half.
Durant is one of the purest shooters in the league from anywhere on the basketball court. One thing that you will always notice about the best shooters in the world is how effortless and automatic they can make certain shots seem. Durant does this with his midrange game. He makes 16-footers look like layups and a good look from that distance is one of the best shots the Thunder can work for.
In the first quarter against Portland, Oklahoma City ran a simple pick-and-roll for Durant that was designed and executed perfectly to get him this kind of look.
The set begins with Russell Westbrook bringing the ball up the court then handing it off to Durant at the top of the key. Kendrick Perkins is set up at the left elbow, Serge Ibaka at the right elbow and Thabo Sefolosha in the right corner.
After handing off to Durant, Westbrook runs off a Perkins screen toward the baseline. Westbrook sets up his man, rookie Nolan Smith, well and runs hard to quickly get into position and forces the Portland defense to help on him.
After Westbrook clears, Perkins comes up to set a screen for Durant at the three-point line. Meanwhile, Perkins’ man, Joel Pryzbilla, is still on the bottom block helping on Westbrook.
Durant waits for the screen and dribbles hard off it knowing that he is going to get an open shot because Perkins’ man isn’t coming up to hedge.
Durant easily drains the pull-up jumper with essentially no one contesting the shot.
I love this play for the Thunder because it is simple and a quick way to get a great shot for Durant. Using Westbrook to act as a decoy cutting to the rim and forcing help defense is very effective in creating for some extra space for Durant to get an open shot.
Perkins is also one of the best screen setters in the entire league and does a great job on this play setting both screens.
Oklahoma City has three of the best scorers in the NBA this season and doesn’t need to do a lot to help them score. But running plays like this early in the game to get someone like Durant into a nice rhythm could be very valuable come playoff time.