An embarrassing dunk given up by an old star, two (bonus!) game winners, a sick crossover, two (bonus!) behind the back passes, and a rejection worse than any high school cheerleader has given the captain of the chess team. Trending Plays!
At Trending Hoops we have a penchant for plays that not only amaze us, but tell us something about the team and players we’re watching. If you’re talking about it–we’re talking about it.
1. Russel Westbrook’s Game Winner
We’ve seen this before. Westbrook hit a supposed game winning three the last time the Thunder and Warriors played. But Andre Iguodala had other ideas. This time, the designed play doesn’t go to Westbrook. The missed tying jumper by Ibaka should be rebounded by the Warriors. Westbrook comes skying in to knock the ball loose, risking an over-the-back foul (he avoids this by generally only making contact with the hand/basketball and rules state that the hand is a part of the ball). The loose ball is saved by Lamb out to Westbrook, who has a couple milliseconds to square up for a game winner. The Thunder crowd reacts just like the Warrior crowd did to Iguodala’s shot–like college hoops fans. The bromance between Ibaka, Lamb, Westbrook, and Durant returns. (They ain’t leaving. No way.)
Durant was wide open in the broken play, but Lamb’s saving behind the head pass couldn’t see that. Russell got a great shot off, albeit with a hand in the face and leaning slightly to the left. Still–they’ve got two ice cold gamers on the team, and either one taking a last second shot is fine by me.
About 90% sure Westbrook’s right toe is on the line, but it’s hard to see. The Dub’s regression and the Thunder’s improvement record wise means this could be a first round, 2-7 match-up. I’m sure the Thunder would rather see Dallas or Denver, but the NBA world would love to see a best of 7 from these guys.
2. The Ageless Wonder’s Game Winner
The oldest player to ever have a 20-20 game? Tim Duncan, with 23 points and 21 rebounds this week against the Hawks. I love when Duncan gets a little swagger after a play–like this one–the little skip step, growling palm slap with Ginobli, and a glowering, zombie-esque head tilt. Get it!
Nice play to get Duncan open, with a little pick from Belinelli. Duncan has hit that shot for years, but it’s usually a slow moving, post up/face up bank shot. This is more of a Reggie Miller catch and shoot, but Duncan pulls it off.
The Ageless Wonder is now 37. To put it another way, a player he competed against as a contemporary–Shaq–is now 41 and retired. It’s not unusual for a player to play this long, Shaq’ himself only retired after the ’11 season. But Timmy was All NBA last year. Ageless. Wonder.
San Antonio improves to 15-3, again with 10 players getting major minutes. The Hawks prove on some level that a sub .500 East team isn’t a steam roll for the #1 team in the West, an encouraging sign for fans of competitive balance.
Even though S.A. fans are/should be spoiled with winning, the place is still packed and on its feet for the last seconds of a less-than-marque matchup. The team has even lost 2 of 3 prior to this. Kudos to you, Texans.
3. Wesley Johnson Embarrasses Paul Pierce
The Lakers are bringing the ball up in the half-court. The seasoned veteran Pierce is playing the passing lane, denying his man the ball. Any high school coach will tell you to watch out for the back door cut. Typically you want your big guy down there as insurance, but Garnett and his man are the last up the floor. Wesley Johnson makes a quick backdoor cut and gets hit with the easy backdoor bounce pass from Steve Blake. If you watch Johnson’s feet, he jumps from the other side of the rim–nearly the other side of the restricted area. Impressive.
I like this play because it showcases two fairly no name players showing up the aging Nets. Paul Pierce suddenly looks old and slow, and we wonder why Prokhorov choose to sign these expensive, over the hill players. Score one for young and explosive. To be fair, Brooklyn’s two best players are injured, and they made a game of it before losing 99-94. Still, this is the proof that Pierce (slow) and Garnett (behind the play) weren’t the best choices.
4. Jamal Crawford’s Crossover on Lance Stephenson
Lance should have to go up to DeAndre Jordan and say, “Thanks for catching me.” 6th Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford flashes his quick moves again, sending Stephenson flying. Lance over-recovers, fouling Crawford on the shot. The Pacers emphasized their “substance” basketball over the Clips “style” basketball, but this crossover (a “style” play) is substance. Anything that compromises the league leading D into giving up a 3 is substance. Crawford fakes using the Jordan pick, and Stephenson’s urgency to get around the pick results in his tangled feet.
A side note: can you believe the Clippers had Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe on their bench last year? Highlight reel.
Style vs. Substance note: The Clippers alley oops and dunks typically come from steals. They had 8 steals against the Pacers. CP3 is leads the league in assists and is third in steals per game. Jordan and Griffin also average a combined 2.28 steals per game, great for any big man south of Andre Drummond (2.0 per game himself). So style comes as a result of substance.
5. All of These
I couldn’t decide for 5, so here’s three great plays.
Mozgov Blocks Rudy Gay
Hey look, an NBA player who doesn’t go for the charge but takes a courageous (and successful) stab at blocking someone! We thank you Mr. Mozgov.
Blake Behind the Back
Yep, pretty awesome. Remember, he’s a 6’10” power forward.
Rubio Behind the Back
What? How? Nice!
Tyler Dykstra is a contributing writer for Trending Hoops.