6-for-9 Shooting numbers for Thabo Sefolosha, who scored 14 poitns and made three steals

10 Assists for Russell Westbrook, in addition to 31 points, ten rebounds and three steals

14 Turnovers forced by the Thunder, leading to 16 points and 13 fast break points

17-9 Edge in second chance points by the Thunder, thanks to 15 offensive rebounds

32 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to 12 rebounds, nine assists and two steals

48-36 Advantage in points in the paint for the Thunder, where it held the Clippers to just 29 shot attempts

50.6-44.6 Shooting percentage differential in the Thunder’s favor

52-36 The Thunder’s advantage in rebounding on the night, including nine for Kendrick Perkins and seven for Serge Ibaka



GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 7th, 2014

RECAP:

Russell Westbrook hustled to get around a screen, forcing Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan to shift his weight and commit an illegal screen that sent Westbrook tumbling to the ground. Laying on his back as the referee whistled the foul and that it was Thunder basketball, Westbrook clenched his first and screamed in unison with all 18,203 fans assembled in Chesapeake Energy Arena.

From the presentation of the MVP Award to Kevin Durant before the ball was tipped all the way until the final buzzer sounded, the emotion, intensity and passion was there for the Thunder in its 112-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of its second round playoff series. The tone was set from the very first possession of the game, when Westbrook, Durant and Thabo Sefolosha got into the ball and forced the Clippers into a turnover.

That defensive pressure turned into offensive prowess, as Durant and Westbrook scored 32 and 31 points apiece in addition to combining for 22 rebounds and 19 assists. The dynamic Thunder duo dominated the landscape of the game with post-ups and work in the pick-and-roll.

“They both are triple threats,” Head Coach Scott Brooks explained. “They can shoot, they can put it on the floor and they can playmake for their teammates. That’s what makes us a good team, and our other guys step up and make shots because they demand attention.”

“We set the bar high for ourselves,” Durant said. “We have a high standard that we try to reach. We work extremely hard. One thing about Russ, he demands so much out of everybody and brings the level of the team up with his intensity and his effort.”

An 11-0 third quarter burst put the game away for the Thunder, but it was the work it did on the defensive end throughout the night that led to victory. Brooks’ club was more physical on Wednesday night, out-rebounding the Clippers 52-36 while also forcing 14 turnovers and only allowing 44.6 percent shooting. A major factor in the effort was keeping the Clippers out of the lane, where the Thunder only allowed 29 shot attempts for 36 points in the paint.

“We did a good job with the basketball tonight, staying in front of it,” Brooks said. “It was a very good defensive game for us.”

“Our guards did a great job of getting over the screens tonight and we did a great job overall of challenging shots, rebounding the ball together and clogging up the paint,” Perkins said.

The defensive work always starts at the top with Westbrook, who limited Chris Paul to 6-for-13 shooting, but more importantly, didn’t allow Paul to duck around screens and weave his way into the lane where he can create havoc.

Behind him, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka were stalwarts, holding Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to a combined 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting. The key to Ibaka and Perkins’ ability to play their men one-on-one far from the basket was the fact that they didn’t have to help over to block Paul’s drives to the bucket.

“It’s just to keep pressure,” Westbrook said. “Those guys are good, especially Chris when you give him space and he finds his teammates and gets them involved. My job is to be able to defend it, and that’s what I try to do.”

On the perimeter, Durant also showed the defensive abilities that have steadily improved every year, helping him earn the 2013-14 NBA MVP. The biggest spark on both ends for the Thunder, however, was Sefolosha. He was scoreless at halftime, but after the break, Sefolosha hit 6-of-9 shots from the field and scored 14 points, in addition to making two huge steals during the Thunder’s big burst that put the game away. Teammates like Caron Butler were extremely proud of Sefolosha’s ability to lock in and use his energy to not just impact, but completely change the game.

“He was huge,” Butler said. “(He was) making shots, deflections and doing a little bit of everything. I couldn’t be happier for anybody… He gave us that spark and that lift that we needed.”

TURNING POINT:

The turning point in this one came late in the third quarter, when the Thunder held a nine-point lead, but wasn’t out of the woods yet. It was 82-73 Thunder with 4:28 left in the quarter when Kevin Durant hit Thabo Sefolosha for a three-pointer on the wing, then Sefolosha picked his man’s pocket and slammed home a fast break dunk. On the ensuing in-bounds pass, Sefolosha anticipated the lob and intercepted it, and the possession resulted in a Russell Westbrook offensive rebound and three-pointer. After Westbrook drew an offensive foul on the Clippers, Kevin Durant hit a free throw, then he found Ibaka for a layup to make it 93-73 with 2:12 remaining, capping the 11-0 run.

“We just made a conscious effort to come out with the right mindset and really lock in on defense,” Sefolosha said. “That’s key for us.”

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:

The Thunder digs in deep on the defensive end on the first possession, forcing a turnover. Russell Westbrook flies through the lane to slap a loose defensive rebound out to Serge Ibaka. Thabo Sefolosha keeps his hands up in the passing lane to deflect a diagonal pass and start a Thunder run-out. Westbrook hustles to get around a screen and draws a foul. Derek Fisher slides in and draws a charge with perfect timing. Kevin Durant tips a defensive rebound to himself to maintain possession.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:

Westbrook anticipates an inbounds pass to make a steal, then hustles to track down an offensive rebound. Excellent box out by Kendrick Perkins to draw a foul on DeAndre Jordan. Beautiful play as Ibaka slips a screen and Westbrook hits him for the wide open dunk. Sefolosha pics his man’s pocket then hangs back in the backcourt to make another steal. Strong box out by Caron Butler to snag a tough defensive rebound.



“Kevin and Russell and the rest of the starters came out and set the tone and set the pace. Everyone else just had to play their roles, be resilient and play hard, passionate basketball.” – forward Caron Butler