With the game on the line and the Los Angeles Lakers down by one point with five seconds left, they ran a play that somehow ended up with Steve Blake shooting a wide-open three-pointer in the corner. It missed, Kobe Bryant got pissed and they ended up losing.
Here's the play in real time.
But what exactly happened on that last play? Was Blake really supposed to get the ball over Bryant? Does Bryant have any right to be upset?
First of all: the play was not designed for Blake. Well, Blake may have been an option, but it was completely by happen-stance. The play was actually a very intricate one in which Bryant was to run off a backscreen by Pau Gasol and fade to the far corner. Metta World Peace was to throw a very difficult inbounds pass, and Bryant was going to shoot the ball off it. At least that's what I can glean from watching it several times.
Here's the important screenshot.
That's a very difficult pass for World Peace to make, but it's not impossible. Thabo Sefolosha is being picked off nicely by Gasol, which would have forced the Thunder to switch. There's a man in the paint, but Andrew Bynum would have prevented him from picking off the pass with a simple backscreen. Finally, World Peace had a clear passing angle
because Kevin Durant, for some reason, wasn't pressuring the ball.
UPDATE: As Sebastian Pruiti points out, Durant was out there to prevent Bryant from catching the ball on the wing outside the three-point line. That forced Bryant to try to go to the corner and run away from the ball.
However, World Peace decided to ad-lib. As you can see in this shot, Russell Westbrook is not even looking at Steve Blake. World Peace noticed this and decided to slip the ball to Blake while Westbrook wasn't watching. Here's another angle.
It's a calculated gamble by World Peace. The 30-foot crosscourt pass is a far tougher one than the simple 10-foot feed to Blake in the corner. On the other hand, he was passing to Blake, not Bryant.
Then again, it's not like Bryant tore up crunch time. The Lakers' star didn't score in the final six minutes and 30 seconds of the game and had already come up way short on two shots similar to the one he was likely to get had this play been run properly.
All things considered, World Peace can easily justify this decision. Blake had a wide-open shot, and you almost never get that in a late-game situation. Bryant won't like it, of course, but Blake hits that shot more often than Bryant would have hit the shot he was going to get as a result of this play.
For more on the Lakers, head over to Silver Screen And Roll and SB Nation Los Angeles. For more on the Thunder, head over to Welcome To Loud City.