Offensive Execution Sharp for Thunder

The Los Angeles Clippers had cut the Thunder’s lead to just seven points with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter on Thursday night, and Head Coach Scott Brooks took a timeout to stop the run.

In the huddle, Brooks knew his team could use a bucket to turn the momentum. The sixth-year head man drew up a play and sent his team back on the court with full confidence. Seconds later, Reggie Jackson hit Jeremy Lamb with a pass as he came off of a curl around a screen, and the second-year rangy wing knocked down a 15-foot jumper. Brooks moved towards mid-court and gave a big fist pump, while his team moved onto the next play in its 105-91 victory. His players had executed his play to perfection.

With a roster full of veterans and young players who are continuing to develop, the Thunder has a group that is committed to getting the best possible shot on each possession by paying attention to detail and being selfless for the good of the team.

“That was a play that was designed for (Lamb),” Brooks said. “I like guys really buying in for their teammates to get a good shot. A lot of times, timeout plays are for one particular guy and then he has to make the right decision, whether he has the shot or not. Everybody locked in and allowed Jeremy to get a good shot on that. If Jeremy didn’t have the shot, I felt he was going to make the right play after that.”

Plays coming out of timeouts are an intriguing indicator of how well a team executes and the rapport that exists between players in the lineups. In addition, it is a skill that both Coach Brooks and his players hold to be able to draw up a play during the timeout, process it and then go out and immediately take care of business on the floor. Intelligence, wherewithal and ability to adjust based on the defense are all required of players when executing those out-of-timeout play calls.

“We take pride in our timeout plays,” Brooks said. “We want to make sure we get a good shot. You’re not always going to score on it, but you want to have a good shot. We’ve done a very good job of executing after timeouts.”

Regardless of who is on the floor, Brooks and his staff have full confidence that each player will be able to digest what is asked of them and fill their role. Whether it is a nine, ten or eleven man rotation during the course of the game, or if a player who isn’t in the rotation is called upon to be the next man up, each player must be ready to make a contribution. With that ever-vigilant mentality, Thunder players are prepared for any strategy, be it a playbook staple or something brand new.

“Everybody has a role and it’s an important role,” Brooks said. “Whether you play that particular game or not, your role is important. We need everybody to buy into our team. Guys have done a good job. We have a pretty good mix of experience and guys who are gaining experience. I believe in all of them.”

Delving into the Stat Sheet:

This season, has released the data from the SportVU cameras that are located in every arena in the league, which track player movement and some new statistics. It’s still early in the year and the sample size is very small, but here are some quick-hitting stats and a taste of the new data as it pertains to Thunder players thus far.

1.2 – “Free Throw Assists” per game for Russell Westbrook, the most of any player in the league. A “free throw assist” occurs when the recipient of a pass is fouled, misses the shot if shooting, and makes at least 1 free throw. The recipient must be fouled within two seconds and one dribble for passer to earn a Free Throw Assist.

1.4 – Number of “Secondary Assists” per game for Russell Westbrook. Similar to a “hockey assist”, a Secondary Assist is a pass made by a player to the player who earned an assist on a made shot. The assister must make a pass within two seconds and one dribble for passer to earn a Secondary Assist.

4.5 – Contested rebounds per game for Serge Ibaka, fifth most in the NBA. A contested rebound is one that is grabbed when an opponent is within three-and-a-half feet.

44.8 – Shooting percentage from three-point range on catch-and-shoot opportunities for Jeremy Lamb this season. Any jump shot outside of ten feet where a player possesses the ball for two seconds or less and doesn’t dribble constitutes a “catch-and-shoot” opportunity.

50.0 – Shooting percentage from the field on catch-and shoot opportunities for Serge Ibaka this season. Any jump shot outside of ten feet where a player possesses the ball for two seconds or less and doesn’t dribble constitutes a “catch-and-shoot” opportunity.

64.8 – Percentage of rebounds for Steven Adams that have been contested rebounds. That percentage is the second highest among players in the NBA who have grabbed at least ten rebounds this season.