Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Harden, Westbrook come up clutch for OKC
By ESPN Stats & Information
After Manu Ginobili hit a pair of free throws with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 5, the Oklahoma City Thunder had the ball with a 101-99 lead.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, it would typically be "Kobe time." For the Dallas Mavericks, it would probably be "Dirk time." For the New York Knicks, it would most likely be "Melo time." But for the Thunder -- even though they have the three-time reigning scoring champion -- it’s not always about their superstar, Kevin Durant.
In the final two minutes of one-possession games this postseason, Durant is 6-for-10 on field goal attempts. That’s twice as many big shots as anyone else in the league. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have made only four such shots combined. Kobe Bryant is just 1-for-10.
But when the game was on the line Monday night in San Antonio, Durant had a couple of friends to lend a helping hand. Their names? Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
It didn’t matter that Westbrook was 0-for-2 in the final two minutes of one-possession games this postseason. It didn’t matter that Durant had attempted twice as many such shots as Westbrook and Harden combined. What did matter was that the Thunder had multiple weapons in their artillery.
After Ginobili’s free throws cut the lead to two, Westbrook drained a 17-foot jumper to extend the lead. After Tim Duncan’s bank shot made it 103-101, Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, the shot clock winding down and Kawhi Leonard’s hand in his face.
Twenty-eight seconds later, the Thunder were celebrating a 108-103 victory -- a win that gives them a chance to close out the series in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
The clutch shot wasn’t as rare for Harden as it was for Westbrook. Harden was 4-for-5 in the final two minutes of one-possession playoff games in his career coming into Monday, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. But Westbrook was just 4-of-20, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
According to the numbers, nobody has been more clutch this postseason than Durant. But that didn’t stop Durant from deferring to his teammates and not taking a single field goal attempt in the final 4:30.
Harden came through all night long for the Thunder. In the 35 minutes with Harden on the court, the Thunder outscored the Spurs by 24 points and shot 55 percent from the field. In the 13 minutes he was off the court, Oklahoma City was outscored 37-18.
In the past 15 postseasons, no team has shot a higher field goal percentage in the final two minutes of one-possession games than the Thunder (among teams with at least 20 attempts), who are shooting 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) in the 2012 playoffs.
The Thunder are the sixth team in NBA history to win three straight games after falling behind 2-0 in the Conference finals.
Who will take the big shots next time for the Thunder? It could be Durant, Harden, Westbrook or maybe even someone else.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.