Despite the backbreaking loss and the game-winner that was drained right in his grill, Naji Marshall actually authored himself a pretty solid outing during the New Orleans Pelicans 114-112 loss to the Houston Rockets.
In just over 19 minutes of play, Marshall scored 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the floor and 5 for 5 shooting from the free throw line. But the real highlight of his performance came on this play right here:
The dig on Josh Christopher’s drive and the fierce finish through contact were nice, but the real beauty of this play was the no-look steal he made when Christopher tried to kick the ball out to teammate Jae’Sean Tate.
I don’t know about you, but after seeing that pilfer, I was immediately reminded of the Kawhi Leonard steal from his days as a Toronto Raptor that had everyone in a frenzy.
For those whose memory is failing them at the moment, here is a reminder of what instance I am referring to:
In both instances, Marshall and Leonard were able to make the play without even seeing the ball as it was coming toward them.
It’s moments like these that make us fans question the boundaries that exist between fantasy and reality. Like, do some athletes really just have eyes in the back of their heads?
In all seriousness, though, players are taught to show their length (i.e., spread their arms out) whenever they are playing off-ball defense, especially when there is even a sliver of a chance that the ball may be coming in their direction.
And that’s exactly what happened in both of these instances. Both Marshall and Leonard are fundamentally instinctive defenders who know how to maximize their physical tools out on the court. In both those plays, we get examples of them putting to practice the tendencies they have been instructed to execute when they are put in these scenarios.
Even with this in mind, it will never not be fun and mesmerizing to see the two of them (and all the other talented perimeter defenders in the NBA) pull off plays like the two we just spotlighted.
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