Offense in the Final Five Minutes

Everyone knows what I’m talking about. Russell Westbrook, standing at the top of the key looking around. Kevin Durant is on his right side, in the corner just standing there. James Harden or Thabo Sefolosha standing on the other side. Then with about five seconds to go on the shot clock, panic has set in throughout the offense. Westbrook takes an ill-advised three point shot or passes to someone and they take a crazy three point attempt.

It was a scene played over and over down the stretch in the regular season and throughout the playoffs. To say this is Westbrook’s fault is a far stretch. However, to say it’s Scottie Brook’s fault would be a stretch as well. It falls on everyone.

If you look at the stats, it’s very indicative that the final five minutes decided the Thunder’s playoff fate. In their nine playoff wins, Oklahoma City shot 45.2% in the final minutes, compared to just 29.6% in their 8 playoff losses. Not surprising that the Thunder either blew big leads or allowed teams to close the game with these percentages. The Thunder led by 8 or more points in 13 of the 17 playoff games. In those 13 games, the Thunder blew the lead five times. Not to mention, in 10 of the games the game was cut within three points in the final five minutes.

I’m not saying Westbrook shoots too much. He’s taken on a big role of the offense when Jeff Green was traded to Boston. However, as a point guard, learn to get the offense moving. That’s really all you have to do in this offense. Don’t settle for the 18 foot jump shots.

To break it down a little more for you. The Thunder took 164 shots within the final five minutes of every post season ball game, excluding free throw attempts. Over half the shots were outside of 15 feet. (23-84 27.3%). It shows that the Thunder did settle for long shots. However, stats don’t always tell the whole story. How many of these were in desperation mode? How many shots were taking when the game didn’t matter? There are different variables that go into all of this.

While stats don’t always tell the whole story, they do give a pretty good idea of the picture. I could probably break down all 82 games and see how many times the Thunder allowed teams back into ball games with their stale offense. The Thunder will have to improve this throughout training camp if they look to become serious NBA Final contenders.

Not to mention Kevin Durant’s last second shot selection. Since he hit the shot against the Knick’s, Durant’s shot selection keeps making that one shot more and more like a fluke. Kevin Durant had 14 shot attempts to win ball games or tie. He hit one single shot last year. Many times they Thunder went to overtime due to a missed fadeaway three point attempt by Durant.

Why does Durant do this? It’s hard to fully pinpoint. However, looks as if Durant is not confident enough to attack the basket in a one-on-one situation. Some of you may be fully shaking your head saying “Did you not see him attack the basketball all throughout the game?” According to Hoopdata.com Durant took majority of his shots from outside 15 feet, averaging 12 shot attempts of his 19.7 attempts. Durant needs to use the confidence he has built up in the final seconds.

Could this be due to fatigue, youth or just place stale offense? That remains to be seen. So many questions are brought up when discussing the offense. This once young ball club is now a veteran bunch with some notches on their belt. Time will tell this season if they’ve worked on this.

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