Last night the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks played Game 1 of their first round series. This matchup is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals and last night it felt a lot like that series.
Dallas was executing everything and making clutch shots and the game looked like it was going to come down to the Thunder executing on offense, something they didn’t do last year in the playoffs and something that even this year they still receive a lot of heat for.
They did a great job last night.
Trailing 96-94 with 1:03 left in the game, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks called timeout and called for one of the Thunder’s best sets that they’ve been running recently.
James Harden inbounds to Russell Westbrook who sets up at the top of the key waiting for Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins to come up and set a double screen.
Westbrook comes off the Perkins pick to the right predetermined and waits for Perkins to set another pick on Durant’s man to try and free Durant up at the top of the key.
In the past few weeks when the Thunder have run this set it has every time gotten Durant wide open at the top of the key. Last night, Dallas defended it well and Westbrook didn’t make the defense commit too much on him so Durant was covered tightly by Shawn Marion at the top of the key when Westbrook passes to him.
Perkins stays around Durant, reading the defense and realizing that Durant isn’t wide open and sets a ball screen on Marion. Durant uses it well and gets into the paint by Marion and Perkins’ man Ian Mahinmi.
Dirk Nowitzki is forced to come up and help on Durant who is ready (having just dumped off to Serge Ibaka for a dunk a few possession earlier) to find Ibaka cutting who finishes with the and-one dunk.
This has been Oklahoma City’s most effective set the past few weeks and it was great to see them go to it out of a timeout when they really needed a bucket.
Dallas covering it well was kind of a blessing because if Durant had been left wide open and tempted to take the three, he may have gone for it and missed since he was off with his shot for most of the night.
This was a better set for Oklahoma City to run at this time because if they had gone to the Westbrook-Durant pick-and-pop (which they do often down the stretch), it may have just resulted in a switch and Durant forced into a tough isolation jumper.
This is evidence of the Thunder taking steps in the right direction with their play down the stretch of tight games.