In my opinion, executing in transition is one of the most important aspects of playoff basketball. With defenses stepping up and playing hard every single possession, you need to take advantage of those opportunities you get when running out on the break. In this week’s post, we are going to look at how the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to execute well and how the Atlanta Hawks were not.
OKC Making The Extra Pass
Before we got to the three overtimes in Memphis, it looked like the Thunder were starting to pull away in the beginning of the fourth quarter. One of the reasons this happened was because the Thunder were able to use their defense to create offense, leading to transition opportunities. Opportunities they were able to execute on and turn into points.
As James Harden gains possession of the loose ball, he and Eric Maynor are actually standing side by side. Because it would be extremely easy to defend the break if the two Thunder players ran next to each other, they separate. Maynor breaks to the left as Harden breaks to the right.
With proper spacing, O.J. Mayo now has to commit to one player or the other. For now, he tries to prevent making that decision and James Harden could make it easy for him if he passed it to Maynor. Instead, he continues to push the basketball until Mayo commits to him.
Once Mayo commits to making Harden pick up his dribble, he dumps it off to Eric Maynor. Now, this is a two-on-one fast break, meaning that Kevin Durant doesn’t have to run the floor, but he does, trailing the play as Marc Gasol tries to keep up with him.
This actually becomes very important on this play. Mayo does a good job of recovering back to Maynor, and if Maynor went up with it, he’d have a tough contested lay-up. Instead, he just drops it off to Durant who made himself available by continuing to run the floor.
Durant makes the catch, rises up, and finishes with the dunk, completing the fastbreak. Here is the play in real time:
This is just great execution and communication by the Thunder. The great execution is Maynor and Harden splitting up and forcing Mayo to make a decision. The communication comes from Durant running the floor, making himself available and letting his teammates know that he is trailing.
Poor Passing Decision
While the Thunder were able to use transition opportunities to extend their lead, the Atlanta Hawks were trying to use transition opportunities to get back in to their game against the Bulls. Trailing the Bulls by six points with about seven minutes to go, Josh Smith made a great play to block a Derrick Rose floater with the ball winding up in Al Horford’s hands. Horford then tried to push the basketball in transition:
Instead of grabbing the ball with two hands and looking for a guard, Horford tries to dribble the loose ball in to possession. After taking one dribble, he tries to get the ball ahead to Jamal Crawford but it gets stolen. There are two people to blame here.
First, Horford needs to make sure he has possession of the basketball before he starts to dribble. Second, Jamal Crawford needs to meet the basketball. Instead, he watches his center dribbling the basketball and tries to get out in transition.
With these two plays, you can see how important transition play is during the postseason. One team was able to execute, and one wasn’t. Until next time.