How OKC Thunder technique could have led to expensive Kyrie Irving 5-point play for Celtics


The Boston Celtics continued their outstanding profitable streak Friday night time, stretching it to seven video games with an 18-point comeback on the highway towards the Oklahoma City Thunder. Leading the best way was Kyrie Irving, who scored 22 of his 25 factors within the second half, together with 13 within the fourth quarter alone.

Perhaps the largest play of the sport got here from Irving with somewhat over 4 minutes remaining. After getting fouled on a Three-pointer, Irving stepped to the road to finish the four-point play. Instead, his free throw ricocheted off the again of the rim and straight again to him. Before the Thunder knew what was taking place, Irving put in a layup to show it right into a five-point play.

The five-point possession pushed the Celtics’ lead from one level to 6 factors, and so they by no means trailed once more, holding on for a formidable victory that improved their league-best report to 7-2.

At first, you would possibly simply badume, “ah, bad luck for the Thunder.” A fluky offensive rebound actually price them in an in depth recreation. However, upon additional inspection, it won’t have been so fluky, in any case. Yes, it was an unlucky bounce straight again to Irving, however OKC’s technique on free throw rebounds was additionally partially guilty.

During Russell Westbrook’s triple-double marketing campaign final season, one of many criticisms was that different gamers on the Thunder let him seize rebounds they might have gotten in order that he might pad his stats. One place that is very true was on the free throw line, the place OKC’s two low gamers simply form of again their opponents up, and Westbrook swoops in for the board. 

This season, once more, they’re using that technique. Let’s watch Irving’s rebound once more, and you’ll see this in motion: 

As the shot by Irving goes up, Steven Adams and Carmelo Anthony casually transfer barely backwards to try to hold the Celtics they’re matched up with on their backs, however make no effort in any respect to get the ball.


Adams and Anthony stand flat-footed, ready for Westbrook to go in for the board.

When the ball bounces straight again to Irving, nonetheless, the Thunder are caught. Westbrook had sauntered into the center of the lane, however with out attempting to field out Irving, whereas Adams and Anthony are standing flat-footed. And with neither Ray Felton nor Paul George pinching down fast sufficient, Irving will get the rebound. 


The ball would not bounce fairly the place the Thunder need it to, and so they’re left stranded as Irving will get a vital board. 

Then, partly as a result of Adams is simply hanging out and never anticipating to do something, he is in no place to contest Irving’s follow-up layup.

Now, did the Celtics get some luck with the ball going straight again to Irving? Certainly. However, as you’ll be able to see, the Thunder’s technique was at the very least partially guilty. Adams and Anthony largely take themselves out of the play, and Westbrook would not make an try to field out anybody, leaving that job to his teammates on the high of the important thing, though the shooter is normally the accountability of the participant in Westbrook’s place. 

This a part of their technique is the principle purpose why Irving acquired the clutch rebound. If Westbrook jumps in entrance of Irving to field him out as a substitute of strolling down close to the rim, it is seemingly he can get in entrance of the Celtics level guard and seize the ball.

The factor is, more often than not, this technique is not any downside for OKC. Teams normally do not crash the glbad laborious on free throws, and the ball normally would not bounce straight again prefer it did this time with Irving. 

Here’s one other instance from this season the place this setup works out simply high-quality. Again, Adams and Jerami Grant simply again their matchups up, whereas Westbrook focuses solely on the ball, and George pinches in to get the shooter: 

Now, to be honest to Westbrook and the Thunder, this isn’t purely a egocentric factor. There are explanation why it is sensible to let Westbrook seize a few of these rebounds, as he can then simply take the ball up himself, and typically jumpstart their fastbreak. 

However, particularly on free throw conditions late in shut video games, it is honest to surprise if the Thunder ought to begin using a extra typical and conservative type. Doing so won’t have badured they get the rebound on this particular play with Irving and the Celtics, however it could have given them a greater probability. 

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