Is Hero Ball the Answer in the Clutch?
Who should get the ball in the clutch?
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the answer — for better or worse, despite the other budding star players at their disposal — has often been a simple one: Kevin Durant.
Although James Harden has recently emerged as a late-game shot-creator, the Thunder often keep it simple, riding Durant with the game on the line. Other than Carmelo Anthony, Durant took more shots than any player in the regular season in the clutch (fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left of a game, within five points or fewer of the lead) on a per-48-minute-scale — according to 82games.com, more even than Kobe Bryant.
And with a potentially back-breaking Game 3 hanging on the balance, they did just that.
Down three with 9.8 seconds to go with no timeouts to spare, Durant came off a screen and retrieved the ball from Russell Westbrook at the top of the key. Sandwiched between all 7 feet of Pau Gasol in front of him and Steve Blake to his left, Durant pulled up with under seven seconds to play and a few feet away from the arc, and let it fly.
The ball rimmed out, and Serge Ibaka, never hearing the pleading of an open Westbrook behind him, went back up with it and was rejected by Andrew Bynum.
LeBron James was lambasted for passing it off to Mario Chalmers for the Heat’s final shot in their Game 2 defeat to Indiana. Questions were also raised when Blake, not Bryant, was the one hoisting up the Lakers’ final attempt in a Game 2 loss in Oklahoma City.