9-for-9 The shooting start for the Thunder tonight, an Oklahoma City record and the best in the NBA this year
11 Number of players who scored for the Thunder tonight. Also the number of blocked shots the Thunder had
24-14 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night, where the team shot 9-for-12 from the floor
25 Assists on the night by the Thunder, including nine by the bench
25.5 The shooting percentage by the Grizzlies in the first half, the lowest they have shot in a half this season
40-16 The scoring advantage held by the Thunder bench on the night. 11 total players scored for OKC
55.6 Shooting percentage tonight by the Thunder, including 80 percent in the first quarter
Jan. 31st, 2013
All the pieces matter, and on Thursday night the Thunder put them together in an effective and dominating performance on both ends of the floor.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad used all-around productive nights from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and strong defensive play from Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and other big men to take care of business at Chesapeake Energy Arena over the Memphis Grizzlies to the tune of 106-89. Being at home for the first time in two weeks was a treat for the Thunder, who came out blazing hot with 9-for-9 shooting, while also holding the Grizzlies to 25.5 percent shooting in the first half.
“We played extremely well, sharing the ball and making the right play early,” Sefolosha said. “That definitely was there throughout the whole game. We shared the ball the way we’re supposed to and helped each other defensively, that was good.”
The defense was particularly noteworthy, as the Thunder forced missed shot after missed shot while also making five steals and blocking 11 shots on the evening. By hustling out to contest the three-point line, clogging the paint and then making second efforts to get out and put a hand in shooter’s faces, the Thunder minimized the Grizzlies’ inside-out game. Overall the Grizzlies shot 34.7 percent from the field and 6-for-25 from three-point land.
“We were contesting their shots,” Brooks said. “This is a contest league. The more times you contest, the more chance they’re going to miss…I thought our defense was solid. To keep a team in the 30’s (shooting percentage) is outstanding defense.”
While Westbrook’s ball pressure and Sefolosha’s length lead the Thunder from the perimeter, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Collison’s post presence, along with Durant’s uncanny instincts and defensive versatility make the Thunder a difficult team to score upon. Brooks’ front-court held the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to a combined 10-for-32 shooting night in addition to six turnovers. All five men were tied on a string defensively, and those stops turned into Thunder offense.
“Just doing what we do defensively,” Westbrook said. We did a good job of closing in the paint and did a really good job of getting out in transition… That was our advantage- getting stops, picking up the ball and getting out in transition.”
In fact, the Thunder scored 24 fast break points while also dishing out 25 assists. Westbrook and Durant each had six assists, while Sefolosha added three. On multiple occasions the Thunder was able to get into advantage situations, two-on-ones, three-on-twos or secondary fast breaks, then find the open man. Westbrook and Durant’s penchant for slicing into the lane and finding players like Sefolosha and Kevin Martin hanging on the wings for an in-rhythm jumper.
“We’re a transition team and we have to get out and break,” Brooks said. “We have to have as many as we can get, and I thought we ended up with six drive-and-kicks in transition for open shots. Russell and Kevin are dynamic ball-handlers and penetrators. They can get to the basket. When they draw attention, they have to be able to kick out to their shooters, and I thought we did that tonight.”
Not only did the starting lineup play effectively, but the Thunder’s bench unit may have turned the tide of the game. On the night Brooks’ reserves outscored Memphis’ 40-16 while also dishing out nine assists and reeling in 17 rebounds. Over the course of the season the second unit, led by Collison and Martin, has developed quite a rapport, and that displayed itself Thursday night.
“We were getting stops and getting some easy ones, which we need to be able to do with that unit,” Collison said. “We were getting good execution. We’re getting better with that group and we’re getting better shots.”
The Thunder led by ten at 34-24 with 10:32 remaining in the second quarter, but over the next six minutes, it would outscore the Grizzlies 14-2 to push its lead to 48-26 with 3:38 remaining in the half. It all started with a slick move from the elbow by Nick Collison to slam home a dunk, then Kevin Durant got a dunk plus the foul after a well-drawn in-bounds play. After that, Russell Westbrook hit a post-up bank-shot, then Westbrook assisted back to back buckets by Durant and Collison. Kendrick Perkins chipped in a free throw and Kevin Martin hit a runner to extend the lead. During that sequence, the Thunder forced 15 missed shots and two turnovers.
“We know its key in the second quarter for our bench, if we’re down to try to shorten the lead or if we’re up to try to keep the lead,” Durant said. “They’ve done a really good job for us these last few weeks of playing solid basketball. They just have to continue to do that and the starters have to set the tone. Tonight I think we did that.”
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Good awareness by Sefolosha to post-up on the smaller Mike Conley, then dish out to Serge Ibaka for a jumper. Ibaka tips a loose defensive rebound to Sefolosha then Sefolosha hustles back in transition defense to make a steal. Ibaka hustles to get back in transition and make a basket-saving block. Collison shifts his feet properly and draws a charge. Beautiful play call by Coach Brooks to get Kevin Durant a look at the basket on a backdoor cut out of a timeout. Nice box out by Reggie Jackson to prevent an offensive rebound.
Plays the box score won't show:
Great vision by Durant to find Sefolosha on a backdoor cut while he posted up on the wing. Ibaka with a strong box out on the defensive end to force a foul on Randolph. Perfect drive-and-kick by Ibaka to a relocating Sefolosha for a jumper. Nice anticipation by Durant to use his length to knock away a pass. Durant single handedly breaks up a two-on-one fast break by Memphis. Westbrook hustles and gets low to swipe a loose ball, turning it into a fast break. Nifty passing from Maynor to Jones to Thabeet for an easy jam.
“Guys came out and were passing the ball really well. We were getting stops and getting rebounds and trying to get out for easy points. It was a good win.” – Kevin Durant