If you have the Thunder-Bobcats game on DVR, go back and watch the final play of the third quarter before you delete it.
You’ll find perhaps the best end-of-quarter play the Thunder has ever run.
After setting up similarly to just about every other last-second set the Thunder has run, this one ended with a pleasant and pleasing result for the home team.
The Thunder inbounded the ball to Kevin Durant with about seven seconds left on the clock. He took a few dribbles beyond the 3-point line before making his move. The first surprise was Durant drove left on Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson. Durant almost always goes right. The real difference, though, came when Durant didn’t pull once he got 20 feet from the rim. He kept going. And as he neared the painted area, collapsing the Bobcats defense, Durant dropped off a beautiful pass to Nazr Mohammed for an uncontested dunk.
One second remained on the clock. The Thunder led 74-65. Jackson could only toss up a 77-foot heave as time expired.
If you’re like me, you watched that play and thought, ‘Where has that been all season?” Finally, the Thunder nailed it. Picturesque execution. Too many times in the past, situations just like these have been botched with turnovers, low-percentage shots or, worst of all, the Thunder failing to get off a shot.
This time, Durant and OKC were money.
I asked Durant after the game to take me through the sequence. Here’s what he said.
Coach just drew up a good play for me to drive the basketball. He gave me the whole side to work. And like every other team, they step over to help. And I saw Nazr at the last second. I was going to shoot it, but I saw Nazr at the last second. I just tried to make an on-point pass. It was a great catch and a great finish.”
Durant then talked about the difference between driving closer to the basket rather than pulling up from further away.
It opens the floor up a little bit. Their team has to help. And I can shoot a better shot. I’m closer to the rim. My pull-up game is one of my best assets so I like to pull up as close as I can but also try to find my teammates.”
And of course, the sight of Durant driving left rather than right was notable. The sample size of him going left in last-second situations is minuscule. But I wondered if there was a difference for Durant. Here’s his answer.
Coach is always telling me I’m a better left-handed driver than I am a right-handed driver. He always draws the play up for me to go left in that situation. Like I said, I just seen him at the last second and tried to make the right play.”
Can’t say I understand the last answer. Durant almost always goes right. So either he’s been adjusting on the fly and going right or he’s reading the clipboard in the huddle upside down. Either way, Friday night’s play was a thing of beauty and maybe, just maybe, it’ll be something Durant and the Thunder builds on from here next time the game clock is winding down.