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Charting Martell Webster's Defense

Depending on which side you listen to, the hot topic from yesterday's Blazers versus "Thunder" game was either:

  • The great job Martell Webster did in shutting down Kevin Durant
  • How "off" Kevin Durant was

Given Martell Webster's inconsistent defense in the past and Kevin Durant's proven ability as a shooter and scorer, I will admit to initially siding with the "Thunder" interpretation: Durant had an uncharacteristically cold shooting night and, essentially, that cost his team the game.  

But given how hard Webster worked in defending Carmelo Anthony last week, and the importance of Webster's development on the defensive end, I thought a closer look at the Durant/Webster match-up was in order.  So, much like last week's charting of Greg Oden's touches, I went back through the game tape and charted every "Thunder" offensive possession with Kevin Durant in the game.  This time, I made a note of who was guarding Durant, the result of the play (if he shot the ball, where did he shoot from and how was he guarded.. if he didn't shoot the ball, where was he in relation to the play) and looked for any other stand out moments from Webster defensively.

The results were particularly interesting.  Here's a link to the full size chart. Here's Durant's shot chart for reference, courtesy of ESPN.


My full charting is quite long and it gets repetitive so let me boil down the results.

  • From my charting, it appears the scorekeeper charged Durant with a missed 3 point attempt with 7:44 in the 4th quarter that Jeff Green actually shot.  Therefore, I have Durant shooting 3-20 from the field.
  • Durant's 3 makes: a layup cutting back door on Webster. A short pull-up jumper over Joel Przybilla. An uncontested dunk in transition.
  • Of Durant's 20 field goal attempts: 12 were contested with at least one hand in his face, 2 had Blazers close out, 6 were uncontested.  
  • The 6 uncontested shots: All 3 of Durant's makes, plus... a missed uncontested dunk in traffic, Webster fell down on one play to allow an uncontested pull up jumper that Durant missed, and Durant found space in the Blazers defense but missed an uncontested 8 footer in front of Przybilla.
  • Durant was 0-14 on shots that were contested or had Blazers close out on him.
  • Durant was 10-14 from the free throw line but Webster registered just two fouls in 39 minutes of play. 1 of the 2 occurred completely off the ball out of bounds as the two players jockeyed for position. 
  • Of the 74 possessions charted with Kevin Durant in the game, Martell Webster drew primary defensive responsibility on 56 of them, or roughly 3/4, and was single covering Durant on nearly every one of those 56. Webster gave up 1 field goal. 
  • Webster succeeded in a number of defensive areas against Durant: he regularly denied Durant the ball both in the post and on the wing, he successfully used his body without fouling to keep Durant from backing him down, he collapsed on penetrators and recovered out to Durant to challenge jump shots on multiple occasions, he played the few pick and rolls flawlessly (credit also to Greg Oden) and finished with 4 steals (many due to Westbrook's out of control forays into the teeth of the defense).  
  • In short, regardless of whether Durant was "off" or not, Webster arguably played the single best, most consistent defensive game of his NBA career.  His only real mistakes: falling down on one play trying to stay with a driving Durant and getting beat backdoor one time off the dribble for a layup.  It was as close to a flawless game defensively as I can remember a Blazer defender playing.  It may well have exceeded any performance of Nicolas Batum's career.
  • Webster did not do it alone: Roy, Outlaw, Fernandez and even Miller continued the solid defense on Durant when Webster was not in the game.  Roy had a dumb foul on a 3 point attempt but otherwise every guy did a good job contesting shots and keeping Durant out of the key. If there was a player who could be singled out for any minor fault it would be Przybilla who, obviously wary of getting fouls called on him, didn't contest two short pull-ups from Durant that he might have been able to.  At the end of the day, Durant was 1-2 on those and it was probably a smart decision on Przybilla's part, given his recent foul trouble and Durant's ability to elevate above Przybilla while shooting.
  •  The Blazers rarely had to truly rotate onto Durant defensively but the one time they did, Juwan Howard went flying out as fast an an old man can to get a hand up on Durant.  This lack of defensive rotation can be chalked up to OKC's stagnant 1-on-1 off-the-dribble offense which had no real rhythm to it and saw Russell Westbrook take tough shot after tough shot without so much as looking in Durant's direction.
  • Indeed, as great as Webster was defensively, you can give almost equal credit to Westbrook for finishing with 9 turnovers (a ton of wasted possessions) and not a single assist to his team's best player.  He made a grand total of zero offensive plays over the course of the game to make Kevin Durant's life easier.  Throughout the game (nearly 20 separate possessions!), Durant was standing at the 3 point line -- often with his hands on his hips or jogging back to play defense -- as his guards ignored him to throw up wild shots.  Flashbacks to his rookie season.
  • A final note: If Martell Webster shows this effort and intelligence on defense, Nate McMillan will gladly close games with him in the lineup, as he did on Sunday night.  Webster didn't allow a single 4th quarter basket from Durant in a close game that was certainly winnable from OKC's perspective.  

Click through for a shrunken down version of my charting results or click here to read the full size version.

-- Ben Golliver | ( | Twitter


-- Ben Golliver | ( | Twitter