But how did they do it? How did the most efficient offensive team and the 2nd-to-last defensive team in the league hold Kevin Durant and the red-hot Thunder to ZERO field goals in the final 5 minutes of the game?
Here's some surprising facts about that stretch:
- Durant went 0-3 in crunch time, in part because he just missed some shots but in no small measure due to the Suns' ball denial defense from Dudley, pressure from Hill and switching by J-Rich. The Suns threw a lot of different looks at KD and didn't allow him any kind of clear shots.
- Dragic didn't score at all in the final quarter and only took one shot, but in crunch time he had two huge assists to cut the lead to five. On the first play out of a timeout, he ran a side pick and roll with Amare. The defense helped over and Goran found Dudley wide open at the top of the arc for three. On the very next possession he beat Maynor off the dribble, forcing Amare's man to help and delivered a bounce pass to Stoudemire for a clean dunk. Two very Nash-like plays.
- Dragic also feed a nice entry pass to Amare with Collison cheating around, which allowed Amare to spin free and get to the rim uncontested. No assist on the play, but it was a sound entry pass that made the play. So, while Goran's scoring in the 3rd quarter was impressive, it was his point guarding in crunch time that created 7 crucial buckets.
- The Thunder ran a three-guard line-up (with Ibaka and Durant up front and Harden, Westbrook and Maynor on the wings) for most of the 4th quarter, which was why Robin Lopez didn't play. He would have been a defensive liability on the perimeter. Against that line-up the Suns had a size advantage with Dudley, Hill and Richardson and Amare was able to play center. To close the game, the Thunder brought in Collison and Green but the Suns stayed small, which allowed them to switch every screen and prevented the Thunder from getting any open looks. The Thunder's lack of a low post scorer was exposed during this stretch.
- The Suns did get lucky as well: both Maynor and Harden missed wide open threes in transition that would have really made a difference and of course Green deflecting Hill's pass and saving it right back to Amare was just one of those lucky bounces you need sometimes.
- During the final five minutes, the Thunder only scored 4 points and all of those were at the line. Both calls that went against Amare were very questionable.
- The Suns also got to the line late in the game but all five FTs were earned. Hill was mugged while slashing quickly. Westbrook jumped on top of J-Rich contesting a rebound. And Amare was hacked on his "and 1" after the Green deflection.
- On the final play for Jason, there could have been reach-in calls on both Thabo and Westbrook but those never get called. Right?
- On the final attempt by the Thunder, the play was designed for Durant to use a screen coming out of the scrum to get free headed towards the sideline but Jason switched on him and did a GREAT job staying between the ball and Durant which forced Kevin to switch directions and head away from the hoop which took him out of the play. Hill recognized the late break by Green to the corner and was right with him on the attempt.
- Green's .7 second heave was REALLY CLOSE to going in. Just imagine how different things would be this morning if that shot falls. Phew!
Who 'da man?
JASON RICHARDSON 'da man.
Grant Hill is also 'da man...