Over the next few weeks, Jordan Kahn will be providing video breakdowns of key sets and plays from many of the playoff games. Check out previous entires here. Find more from Jordan at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
In the fourth quarter of Game Four, Kevin Durant scored 18 points as Oklahoma City ran the same play over and over to get him the ball . The Spurs tried to defend it many different ways, but they obviously had no success. Let’s take a look at what the Thunder ran and how the Spurs defended it.
In this first clip, we see how the play works. James Harden gets the ball on the perimeter, while Russell Westbrook sets a down screen for Kevin Durant. There’s not a lot going on in the play, as it mostly relies upon Durant’s superior ability to read the screen and beat his defender. The other players mostly spread the floor as Durant does his thing. On these three plays, the Spurs don’t switch and Kawhi Leonard stays on Durant. Leonard does a solid job defending, but Durant is just too good.
In this next clip, we see the Spurs change up their defense. They switch on the Westbrook screen, which leaves Tony Parker to guard Durant. Clearly a mismatch, the Spurs have to send some extra help. In the first play, we see some nice weakside action, as Kendrick Perkins sets a screen on the helper, Gary Neal, so he is unable to recover to his man. James Harden misses a wide open three. In the second play, Kawhi Leonard times his double team perfectly, but misses the steal and Durant hits the shot.
After seeing the mismatch between Durant and Parker, the Spurs exchanged assignments to get a bigger defender on Durant. In these next two plays, the Spurs put Manu Ginobili on Westbrook, knowing that he will eventually switch onto Durant. On the first play, Durant beats Ginobli’s defense, and on the second play, Durant catches the Spurs anticipating his screen and goes backdoor for the alley oop.
In this final clip, the Spurs go back to not switching. They leave Stephen Jackson to fight through the Westbrook screen to defend Durant. In the first clip, Jackson doesn’t reach Durant in time to stop him from hitting another jumper. In the second clip, Jackson defends Durant, but Perkins again sets a screen for Harden. This time, Harden hits the open three-pointer to seal the game.
During the Kevin Durant explosion, the Spurs tried different ways to defend the scoring champion. Despite these different looks, Durant has the ability to beat whatever the defense shows him. Making matters worse, when the Spurs devoted too many resources to defending Durant, they allowed James Harden to shoot wide open three-pointers. It will be interesting to see how the Spurs handle this play in Game Five because the Thunder will surely go back to it.