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Thunder has to be willing to let non-stars shoot in crunch time

The Dallas Mavericks dared someone other than Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to beat them down the stretch, and the Thunder didn't double dare, writes columnist Berry Tramel.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 24, 2011

The idea that Durant or Russell Westbrook are going to have to make all the plays for the Thunder in crunch time, this post-season or future, is silly.

The NBA superstar culture has produced this belief that stars have to take over down the stretch. Good if you can get it — Durant in Game 5 of the Denver series, for example — but elite playoff teams can nix such plans.

That's why Harden's so valuable on the court, as a third scorer, but the Thunder has to rely on its other guys, too.

Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Sefolosha were on the court during the collapse. That's not OKC's best offensive trio along side Durant and Westbrook, but it's not terrible.

And those three weren't the problem, other than passivity. Those last 10 minutes, when the Thunder scored just six points down the stretch of regulation plus overtime, Ibaka and Sefolosha each were 1-of-2 shooting, and Collison didn't shoot. All three Thunder turnovers in those 10 minutes were committed by Durant (two) and Westbrook.

What happened is abundantly clear. The Mavs dared someone else to beat them, and the Thunder didn't double dare.

That has to change next season. This series is too late, but next season, when the Thunder might enter as the West favorite, Brooks has to demand more offense than just from Batman and the Riddler.

More minutes for Harden, probably starting, but that's not enough. Ibaka, who with 18 points and 10 rebounds was superb in Game 4, should become a bigger scorer. Heck, I don't think Collison shoots enough.

And give me more Thabo, in the right situation.

My only gripe about that Durant pass to Sefolosha was that it resulted in a 3-point try. Sefolosha in Game 4 scored 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He missed both his 3-point shots.

No surprise there. Thabo this season was a Swiss Miss from 3-point range, 27.5 percent. But Sefolosha made 55.8 percent of his 2-point shots. And in the playoffs, those numbers are even more exaggerated: 4-of-26 on 3-pointers, 65.9 percent on 2-pointers.

Give me less Sefolosha from beyond the arc and more Sefolosha from inside the arc. “I totally agree,” Thabo himself said. “Especially in a series, when they know exactly what you're going to run.”

Overtime was telling. The Thunder got two decent shots. A 20-footer by Thabo and a 17-footer by Ibaka. Those two shots provided all four Thunder points in overtime.

Dallas was willing to give the Thunder good shots down the stretch, so long as Durant and Westbrook didn't take them. The Thunder, next season and beyond, has to be willing to let the non-stars shoot in crunch time.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

Tramel: Ultimate resiliency test in Game 5
by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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