Late in the game on Tuesday, with the Thunder up eight, Westbrook secured a James Harden miss and tossed it up the court to a wide-open Butler. As Butler corralled it around the 3-point line, all alone, Brooks strolled down the sideline to ask for no shot. Butler was already ahead of him, pulling the ball back out, getting it to Westbrook and milking another 20 seconds off the clock.
Brooks gave a mini fist pump and headed back toward the bench.
“He went out there and played basketball the right way,” Brooks said after Butler’s first game in a Thunder uniform. “If he had a shot, he took it. If he had a pass, he passed it. And we have to continue to add that mentality to our team.”
But beyond coach-player trust, this latest closing five is a group that fits together quite nicely on the court, particularly against smaller teams.
Ibaka has proven to be a capable small-ball center. Durant is a matchup nightmare at the power forward. Fisher is shooting nearly 50 percent from three the past couple months. Westbrook is Westbrook. And Butler has proven to be a consistent enough outside shooter since his arrival.
Two of the world’s best attackers, two veteran floor spacers and one of the NBA’s best pick and pop, pick and roll big men.
Say hello to the Thunder’s newest closing five.