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Brooks and the Thunder are improving in the clutch

Apr 1, 2010, 12:21 PM EDT

The Thunder have undoubtedly been the most surprising team of the season, and with that surprise comes some unreasonable perceptions. For starters, the notion that the Thunder are a good offensive team because they have Kevin Durant, one of the best scorers in the league, is laughably false. Similarly, because the Durantula is, as mentioned, an offensive superweapon, it’s assumed that he’s able to get off a shot in the clutch. Also untrue.

In fact, Oklahoma City has been routinely horrible in late-game situations this season. Some of the responsibility for that trend goes to the players themselves, who don’t seem to execute all that well with an entire game boiled down to one do-or-die possession. However, equally (if not more) responsible are Scotty Brooks and the Thunder coaching staff, who routinely draw up bland, uninspired plays that rarely end well.

The story was hardly the same last night against the Boston Celtics, as the Thunder utilized the same play two possessions in a row to give open three-point looks to Jeff Green. He connected on both, despite the fact that Kevin Garnett seemed to recognize the set as it was being run. Fool KG once, shame on him. Fool KG twice, the Celtics lose and he complains about the officiating.

Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook broke down the play in question, and you can see how a cleverly drawn set can empower a team like the Thunder. It’s not that they don’t have offensive weapons in OKC, but sequences like this one hint at the fact that the Thunder’s biggest problem may be talent utilization. That and the fact that players like Durant, Green, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden make up an incredibly young offensive core. And that Scotty Brooks is an incredibly young head coach. The team — coach and all — is growing up together, and moments like these are evidence of that process.   

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