Failed box out costs Thunder Game 6

OKC led 94-93 in the closing moments of Game 6 when Kobe Bryant dribbled up the right side of the floor preparing to attempt a game-winning shot…

Watch the video again. This time, notice how Nick Collison (charged with covering Pau Gasol) starts to cheat over on Kobe to help on a potential drive to the hoop. This is by design. What’s not by design is how neither Serge Ibaka (#9) nor Jeff Green (#22) rotates down and puts a body on Gasol. The players that they were covering — Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher — were ponderously standing out behind the three-point line, so they weren’t threats on the offensive glass.

Instead, Ibaka and Green turn and watch Kobe’s shot. After the put-back, Jeff Van Gundy blamed Collison for not rotating back to Gasol, but physically-speaking, it’s tough to ask a guy to help on a Kobe drive and box out Gasol. That duty needs to fall to Ibaka or Green (probably Ibaka).

Here’s a case where the Thunder’s inexperience really cost them. But it’s not like failed box outs haven’t lost games before. In the 1983 NCAA title game, Hakeem Olajuwon stood and watched the shot go up, allowing NC State’s Lorenzo Charles to sneak in behind him, catch the airball, and dunk it for the win. Here’s another look:

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