Late in the 2nd quarter of the Spurs’ Saturday night loss to the Thunder, the two teams engaged in a brief back and forth that ended in chaos. The Spurs, not yet showing the exhaustion they so clearly felt in the 2nd half, had built a 13 point lead, but the Thunder were already beginning their slow climb out of the hole.
After a pair of DeMar DeRozan free throws stretched the lead back to 8, Russell Westbrook brought the ball up the court.
Paul George moves into the paint with Steven Adams near the free thrown line. DeRozan, concerned about George popping to the top of the key around an Adams’ screen, is above George in the lane. With no help in the vicinity once Davis Bertans clears through following Jerami Grant, George puts a forearm in DeRozan’s chest to establish some space and Westbrook throws a pretty lob over the top. DeRozan recognizes the play too late and watches as George dunks it.
Possibly feeling a little extra aggressive after having given up such an easy bucket, DeRozan quickly attacks on the other end.
DeRozan dribbles straight into a pistol action on the left side, which the Thunder switch. With Westbrook on him now, DeRozan isolates in his office on the left baseline. He gets Westbrook leaning left then crosses over into an up-and-under reverse layup through and around Adams and Terrance Ferguson.
It’s now Westbrook’s turn to be aggressive, and he immediately attacks Derrick White with a mid-acceleration in-and-out dribble that opens up a path to the rim.
Davis Bertans gives just enough of a contest to force Westbrook into a miss. There doesn’t appear to be much contact, but Westbrook ends up on his back against the stanchion and Bertans leaves his hands up in the universal signal for “I didn’t foul him, I swear.” After LaMarcus Aldridge grabs the rebound, White brings the ball up the court.
Seeing that the Spurs have a numbers advantage at the moment, he tosses it to Bertans at the top of the key. That puts the Thunder in a difficult position because all four of their defenders have already picked someone up. Bertans’ shooting ability is such a threat that both Adams and Ferguson decide to help, leaving White open on the right wing and LMA open rolling to the rim.
Perhaps feeling a little saucy himself, Bertans tries to thread a nifty bounce pass down to Aldridge past the giant flying Kiwi and a 3-time All-Defensive team selectee. It goes just about as well as you’d expect.
Before we get to the chaos that came next, what should have happened here is a pass back to White as he cuts behind Ferguson into the paint. That would’ve given the Spurs a 2-on-1 against George, or, if Grant helps out of the corner, an open 3 for Bryn Forbes. A simple swing to DeRozan on the left wing would have been preferable as well.
As it is, George nearly comes away with the steal before fumbling it away. The ball ricochets through LMA’s legs after ping-ponging off his left thigh, right knee and left knee. Aldridge tries to recover the ball with a dribble, but it appears to hit his right foot and start to bounce away. With Grant closing quickly, Aldridge dives on top of it.
That doesn’t work out either, as the ball squirts out to his right, giving George the opportunity to swipe it away as he lunges past. On his butt, right in front of his bench, and with Adams mere feet away, George commits the cardinal sin of passing the ball underneath the opponent’s basket. He immediately realizes his mistake.
That, friends, is a genuine look of horror and an immediate “my bad!”
But the play ain’t over. Forbes’ steal puts him right under the basket and he thinks he’s got an easy 2 points. Ferguson disagrees and knocks Forbes’ shot away from behind. If you’re scoring at home, that’s two bad passes, a fumble, a couple of tough bounces, and a block, all in the span of 6 seconds.
In the end, Forbes’ blocked shot bounces right back to him. Aware that defenders are closing in on him again, including Ferguson, Forbes quickly gets the putback up on the glass where it’s safe and it falls through.
Just like they drew it up.