LOS ANGELES -- Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has heard the chatter about his team's more isolation-heavy offense that revolves around him and teammate Russell Westbrook, and the rap is getting a little tiresome.
"When you have iso players and guys who can score as many points as Russ and me, you've got to live playing some iso ball," Durant said on Monday night following the Thunder's 100-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. "What do you want? Just pass the ball around and around and not be aggressive? If they're looking at me and Russ is open, he gets the ball. But if I've got it, I'm going to work. Iso. It's pick your poison."
On Wednesday night, poison was picked, but this time the lethal dose wasn't Durant working at the nail before launching a step-back jumper. Trailing 95-93 inside of a minute remaining in regulation, the Thunder ran the play shown above coming out of a timeout.
"We ran a play for him in the middle of the floor and we had a weakside flare [screen] for Russell," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Like many of Oklahoma City's sets, it all starts with a pin-down for Durant from center Steven Adams as Westbrook brings the ball up the floor. Durant scampers up from the baseline to catch the pass from Westbrook just to the right of the top of the key.
From here, Durant has a number of options, which includes engaging his defender -- Clippers' defensive stalwart Luc Mbah a Moute -- in one-on-one combat. Isolation basketball might not capture the sports' aesthetic flourish, but Durant has a case. Among players with more than 50 isolation sets this season, Durant leads the league by producing 1.138 points per possession. As a reference point, the Golden State Warriors score 1.133 points per possession.
It follows that Oklahoma City ranks eighth in percentage of possessions that result in an isolation play, but in this instance, Durant and the Thunder don't settle.
"We talked about the play before, during the timeout," Serge Ibaka said. "I told Russell, ‘I'm going to set a back pick for you.' When Kevin gets the ball out there, most teams focus on Kevin, and he got all the attention in this play."
Per Ibaka, he runs from the low post to the top of the floor to offer Westbrook a back pick, or what Donovan referred to as the flare screen. Just as he does, Chris Paul, assigned to Westbrook, moves to trap Durant.
"[Paul] went to Kevin and it was perfect," Ibaka said. "They didn't know the play was for Russell. It makes it easier for me."
Ibaka is being guarded on the play by Blake Griffin, who stays low rather than chase Ibaka to the top of the floor. This means as Westbrook flares along the arc to the left side, Griffin has a pretty long commute to close out -- too far for the Clippers. Durant delivers the ball to Westbrook, who has plenty of room to elevate and drill the 3-pointer to vault the Thunder into the lead with 48 seconds remaining.
"That's our play," Durant said. "We called it out of the timeout -- Coach called that play. We start with an iso at the elbow, and that's my spot. Everybody's watching me. They don't think I'm going to pass the ball. Chris Paul is looking at me the whole time. If they stick on Russ, I go to work."
In Durant's world, a play call shouldn't be judged on its classification, but on its result. And on Wednesday night, the team that, by reputation, doesn't run anything late, ran the Clippers in circles.