The Thunder Season in a Nutshell
11/22/2016 by Dominic Hebert
That Thunder-Lakers game was a microcosm of the OKC season. Russell Westbrook has been on a tear statistically; averaging 0.5rbg short of a triple double to go along with 31.8ppg and 10.6apg, but his career-high 40.5% usage rate points to a lack of trust in his teammates. He may trust them to make shots off of the looks he generates for the first three-and-a-half quarters (and even yells at the poor shooting Andre Roberson for deferring), but only Oladipo is trusted as a second facilitator at times. Once it’s crunchtime, he devolves into hero-ball Russ.
After Nick Young stole a pass from a teammate intended for Lou Williams and hit the go-ahead three, OKC had a full 5 seconds to work with. Adams received the inbounds from Oladipo who slowly moved toward the left corner. At the time, Russ was 4/6 and Oladipo 2/4 from deep so Coach Donovan had two options for ball-handlers who could be trusted with an open shot. Anthony Morrow, who is a respected shooter, was spotting up in the corner opposite Roberson who I can only assume was in the final play for rebounding purposes. The defenders in the corners were glued to their men, meaning Russ probably should have faked left toward the hand-off from Adams and then cut toward the hoop at full speed for a lead pass. That would have guaranteed an open look for one of the Thunder players. If Morrow’s man slides into the paint, that results in an open corner three for him and he has hit clutch shots in the past. If not, then it’s up to the trailing defender or Roberson’s man to block or foul a 80.5% free-throw shooter. Russ decided to make the obvious play to take the hand-off and screen for a Curry/Lillard-range three. At the time, THREE defenders were on him. Oladipo was relatively open or he could have led Adams with a pass. Even a Roberson corner three was better than what was decided.
Basically, there were several good options and none of them involved a deep, contested three while fading left. GM Sam Presti either has to find a respected facilitator to give Russ some rest or Donovan needs to chat with his point guard about his late-game decision-making. If he doesn’t take more rest and trust in his team more often, they will lose many more close games.