Quick Note: Though, as I write this, it’s currently 4 a.m. and the A’s/Angels game just ended after more innings played (19) than Hamilton swings (not quite sure, but allow me to direct you to the 0-8 line), I still can’t manage to get that final Houston/OKC play out of my mind. So, in non-typical column fashion, I’m going to quickly – as Mayock would say – “bang it out” rather than go longform. At least that’s what I think is about to happen.
At approximately 8:13 p.m., I tweeted the following…
“@notJDaigle: Playoff defense is so reckless and fun. Bellinelli is completely ignoring Wallace behind the arc in order to cram the paint on Johnson isos.”
(Yes, I just quoted myself. Give me a break, it’s effing 4 a.m.)
For the record, this isn’t unusual. This is what happens when defenses morph into postseason form. Rather than locking down shooters around the perimeter with airtight defense, a team gravitates towards the opposing teams best player, usually opting to leave one man open in order to cram the paint with an extra defender. In doing this, you might give a guard a good look, but you’re forcing the best player opposite of you to take inefficient and low percentage shots.
Having said that, Bellinelli’s exaggerated D is still hilarious.
This is a twitter avatar waiting to happen. The ball is LITERALLY a few feet from Wallace, yet Bellinelli would rather cram the paint than worry about him.
So why am I writing all of this now? It’s simple, really. Once Westbrook was announced out for the remainder of the playoffs, Houston started playing Durant in a completely different manner, locking one man onto him at the top of the key while simultaneously rotating the entire defense in his direction, usually leaving Sefolosha as the open candidate.
As I said before, the Rockets really just don’t care about anyone but Durant.
This type of defense wasn’t really an option with Westbrook around, seeing as all problems could be answered with a measly pick-and-roll, whereas now the Jackson/Durant pick-and-roll just isn’t the same, and Sefolosha’s output has become more of a need than a compliment. For instance, check out his statistics with and without Westbrook on the court.
Sefolosha WITH Westbrook: 2 GMS, 10 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2 APG, 50% FG, 40% 3P
Sefolosha WITHOUT Westbrook: 2 GMS, 4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 25% FG, 20% 3P
And, luckily for us, it naturally came to fruition on a national display during the final play last night.
As I just stated, with Garcia playing this tight of defense on Durant, a lineup instilled with Westbrook could’ve easily set up a pick-and roll for the final play, with Westbrook doing his patented slashing to the rim if Durant decides to keep the ball. With Jackson, on the other hand, it more or less becomes a quick session of “Let’s Watch Our MVP Figure This Out”.
Jackson finally receives the ball in the corner, and is now forced to make a play. He beats his defender and draws literally EVERYONE into the paint.
And here is just another area where Westbrook would come in handy.
First of all, only about six players remaining in the postseason are getting that call, Jackson not being one of them (though I would argue all day that Durant would immediately be sent to the free throw line). Secondly, I’m really not sure if Ibaka could be anymore wide open. And if, for whatever reason, you aren’t content with dishing it to Ibaka directly under the basket, I’m sure Fisher would be more than happy to take a game-winner from the corner. Alas, these are just the perks the Thunder will have to live with for the rest of the year.
Did last night change anything? In my opinion, not really. I had the Thunder in five all along, and only because you have to be a really bad team to get swept (Brandon Jennings is at home nodding his head).
At the least, Oklahoma City now knows they’re in a fight.
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