Everyone in the Air Canada Centre thought they knew what was coming next. Russell Westbrook had just scored or assisted on 16 of the Thunder’s last 18 points, almost all of which began with him bringing the ball up the court and receiving a screen from Steven Adams somewhere along the perimeter.
Thanks to Adams creating separation between Westbrook and his defender with a series of bone-crushing screens, the seven-time All-Star had all the space he needed to knife his way to the basket, pull-up from midrange, or kick it out to his teammates for catch-and-shoot opportunities when the Raptors started to collapse on his drives.
Based on the shots they were getting out and how well they were converting them, the Thunder wisely cleared the floor for Westbrook and Adams to run another pick-and-roll when the game was tied up with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Then this happened:
What looks like an opportunistic drive by Westbrook is a byproduct of the chemistry he has developed with Adams through the years. Both he and Adams knew the Raptors were anticipating another pick-and-roll because of the way they were being guarded. Serge Ibaka, matched up with Adams, had his eyes set on Westbrook as the possession started to take shape. Delon Wright, drawing the assignment of slowing down the league’s reigning MVP, jumped towards Westbrook to give himself a better chance of fighting through Adams’ screen that never came.
Westbrook took advantage by blowing by Wright. Adams delayed the only rim protector the Raptors had on the floor from sliding over and cutting off Westbrook’s drive by setting a screen on Ibaka. Adams then rolled to the basket as though he had set a screen for Westbrook to position himself underneath the hoop for an offensive rebound — something he does at a historic rate — had Westbrook missed the layup. In which case, there’s probably nothing the 6’5 Wright could have done to keep Adams from getting a second chance opportunity.