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

The Boston Celtics continued their exceptional 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 most important 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 file 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 may not have been so fluky, in spite of everything. Yes, it was an unlucky bounce straight again to Irving, however OKC’s technique on free throw rebounds was additionally partially in charge.

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 may 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 type 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 attempt to hold the Celtics they’re matched up with on their backs, however make no effort by any means to get the ball.

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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. 

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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, partially 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 may see, the Thunder’s technique was at the very least partially in charge. Adams and Anthony principally 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 prime of the important thing, though the shooter is often the duty of the participant in Westbrook’s place. 

This a part of their technique is the principle purpose why Irving received 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 isn’t any downside for OKC. Teams often do not crash the glbad arduous on free throws, and the ball often 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 tremendous. 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 generally jumpstart their fastbreak. 

However, particularly on free throw conditions late in shut video games, it is honest to marvel if the Thunder ought to begin using a extra standard and conservative model. Doing so may not have badured they get the rebound on this particular play with Irving and the Celtics, however it will have given them a greater probability. 




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