Chandler Parsons’ Big Night

With Jeremy Lin injured and James Harden struggling from the field (4-for-12) and with ball control (10 turnovers), Chandler Parsons stepped up in a big way to help the Houston Rockets escape elimination and win Game 4 of their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Parsons tallied 27 points on 11-21 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 8 assists in his 41 minutes of action.

 

Early in the game, Parsons hit the Thunder with a series of quick decisions in early offense, which set the tone for how he attacked the rest of the night. Once the catch-and-shoot threat was established, Parsons used the threat of the jumper to get himself into the lane to create better looks for both himself and his teammates.

Twice in the first quarter, Parsons was able to get his defender off his feet with a pump fake, clearing a path into the teeth of the defense in the process. Parsons – like every Rocket – is well-schooled in the efficiencies of the game and knows that a shot inside the lane but outside the restricted area is one of the least efficient you can take, and used his drives as bait to create openings for teammates beyond the arc.

 

He already had four baskets (three on catch-and-shoots and the one dribble pull-up in transition shown above) at the time of the second assist in the video above, so the Thunder were closing out on his jumper like mad. On both plays, Parsons beats a closeout man (first rookie guard DeAndre Liggins, then Kevin Durant) by aggressively faking a three, and by the time he steps foot in the lane, all five Thunder defenders converge on him. He has his pick of teammates to dish to in each situation. First, he finds the resurrected Francisco Garcia, then Patrick Beverley.

Early in the second half, Parsons showed he can beat the closeout man and the rest of the defense all by himself.

 

Again Parsons uses a nasty pump-fake here to get Durant off his feet, but this time there’s no one blocking him from getting the most efficient shot possible – a dunk. Kendrick Perkins almost gets there, but he’s still inside the restricted area by the time Parsons has banged it through the rim for a thundering dunk.

One possession later, he showed the shot fake wasn’t the only one he has in his bag of tricks.

 

The degree to which Thabo Sefolosha gets faked out of his boots here is absurd. He’s clearly got designs on a game-breaking transition dunk, and he actually winds up farther out beyond the three point line than Parsons is at the time he makes the fake. Harden then hits Thabo with the backdoor cut, Parsons threads the bounce pass through the open window, and Harden gets a nice, easy layup in the lane for his troubles – it’s by far the easiest of his three half court baskets on the night.

 

Still later in the game, Parsons put together an entire offensive possession around the threat of the jumper and the shot fake. As he comes around a screen from Omer Asik, Parsons is matched up one-on-one with Serge Ibaka. Ibaka, not wanting to give Parsons the jumper he’s been stroking, but also not wanting to get beat to the rim, plays it in between and picks Parsons up at the free throw line. This allows Ibaka to both shut down the potential shot and give Durant – who has been knocked off course by Asik’s screen – time to recover back to his man.

Rather than pulling up for a well-contested jumper, or idling near the top of the key and allowing Durant to recover over to him, Parsons hits Ibaka with a hesitation dribble designed to create just enough space for him to get to the basket. Ibaka lunges out just a little too far, fooled into thinking Parsons is taking that pull up jumper. This allows Parsons to get to the rim, where he uses Ibaka’s shot-blocking instincts against him and throws yet another pump fake out there. Ibaka bites hard and goes flying out of bounds, while Parsons gets an easy layup.

It’s this kind of simple, yet complete offensive game that has made Parsons into one of the league’s best young players and ultimate bargains. He’s both crafty and hard-nosed, and he can dribble, shoot and pass with effectiveness and efficiency. He’s also a smart enough player to know which to do at which times.

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