3 Blocked shots for Serge Ibaka, part of eight for the Thudner as a team. Ibaka also scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds

10 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins on the night

11-for-22 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who scored 31 points while grabbing five rebounds and handing out five assists

12 Steals for the Thunder, including three for Jeremy Lamb in the first half

13 Turnovers forced by the Thunder, leading to 21 points

21-0 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night, where it held the Spurs to zero shot attempts

40 Points for Russell Westbrook to go with ten assists, five reboundsa dn five steals

48.7-39.8 The differential in field goal percentage in the Thunder’s favor on the night, holding the Spurs to 18-for-40 in the paint



GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 27th, 2014

RECAP:

Hands and arms were seemingly everywhere tonight, as the Thunder’s swarming five-man defensive unit was communicating, helping and closing out on the San Antonio Spurs on every possession.

In an emphatic 105-92 Thunder victory over the Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club sustained an early 8-0 Spurs burst and a twisted ankle to Reggie Jackson, but rattled off big runs in the second and third quarters to eventually build a 27-point lead.

On the night, the Thunder defense held the Spurs to just 39.8 percent shooting while forcing 13 turnovers that led to 21 points. Leaders Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were physical and active on the perimeter, while Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams roamed the paint. With its quickness, agility and toughness, the Thunder was able to force the Spurs into taking low efficiency shot attempts.

“Once we use our athleticism, use our size and use our strength, it’s at our advantage,” Westbrook said. “I think we’re in a good position when we do things like that.”

Those defensive stops that the Thunder repeatedly racked up led to offensive possessions that seemed to swell with momentum every trip down court. The crowd in Chesapeake Energy Arena and Thunder teammates were lifted by the effort and intensity with which Westbrook played on the night, as he posted the first 40-point, 10-assist, five-rebound and five-steal game since Michael Jordan in 1989.

His focus and aggression was on full display on both ends of the floor, and it revved the Thunder’s engine to full capacity. Westbrook shot 12-for-24 on the night and hit all 14 of his free throw attempts, but balanced that attacking style with a tempo and pace conducive to finding opportunities for others. In addition, his on-ball pressure on defense helped him create run-outs, allowing the Thunder to hold an astonishing 21-0 edge in fast break points.

“Russell’s passion for the game is something that we need, he supplies us with that and guys respond,” Brooks said. “He’s emotional. He’s been a terrific guy in timeouts and at halftime. It was another terrific all-around game for him tonight.”

“His focus on every possession on the defensive end and his poise on the offensive end, that’s what is fun to watch,” Durant said. “That’s something we can build on as a group, watching him wreak havoc on the defensive end and offensively playing with such patience.”

Alongside Westbrook was Durant, whose steadiness was a major factor as well. Durant hit 11-of-22 shot attempts and scored 31 points while handing out five assists and grabbing five rebounds, providing an excellent counter punch to Westbrook’s drives to the paint. The Thunder also got a shot in the arm from Kendrick Perkins’ ten rebounds, Serge Ibaka’s three blocked shots and a nice seven-point, three-steal effort from Jeremy Lamb, who filled in nicely after Jackson briefly left the game. Lamb registered all three of his steals in his first half stint, then hit a monster momentum three-pointer to end the first half, giving the Thunder a 15-point lead.

“He has to keep playing with a lot of confidence, give us energy and make an impact on both ends,” Brooks said. “We expect two-way players and we have to focus on that. He was solid tonight.”

The series is now tied at 2-2 with Game 5 in San Antonio lurking on Thursday. Both teams have held serve on their home courts so far in this series, meaning that the Thunder will have to win at least one game on the road in order to win this now best-of-three battle. In order to get the job done, the Thunder must rely on the same principles, hunger and consistent focus that helped the team rally out from under an 0-2 deficit. The Thunder will get right back to work on Wednesday, with hopes of finding ways to play even better on Thursday.

“We used our length and athleticism to disrupt their flow and a lot of guys were involved,” Brooks said. “We still have things to get better. We’re going to watch the film tomorrow and figure out ways to improve going into San Antonio.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder built a 15-point halftime lead thanks to a 9-2 run to end the first quarter along with an 8-0 burst in the second quarter. The game was won, however, during a four minute stretch in the third quarter when the Thunder used a 14-1 run to break the game open completely.

The stretch started with the Thunder leading 62-48 with 8:50 remaining in the period. Kevin Durant hit a turnaround jumper, then Serge Ibaka dunked on a fast break. Durant found Reggie Jackson for a three-pointer in the corner, then after a Durant steal, Kendrick Perkins banked in a hook shot. The Thunder forced a missed shot, leading to a Westbrook three-pointer off a Jackson pass, then Perkins hit Westbrook on a backdoor cut for a dunk to make the score 76-49 with 4:35 left in the quarter. During the stretch, the Thunder’s defense forced four missed shots and four turnovers.

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

Nice screen out front by Kendrick Perkins to open up a driving lane for Kevin Durant. Jeremy Lamb slides over from the helpside to make a steal and start a fast break. Incredible defensive pressure by Russell Westbrook on the perimeter forces the Spurs into a bad shot late in the shot clock. Serge Ibaka’s presence in the lane forces Tim Duncan into a missed floater. Beautiful one-handed, lefty pass from Westbrook to Durant. Lamb’s quick hands slap the ball away to make another steal, starting a fast break. Incredible awareness and vision in transition by Westbrook to find Durant for a three-pointer. Incredible rebound in traffic by Lamb to regain possession for the Thunder.

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

Excellent patience by Reggie Jackson in transition to wait for the defender to commit before throwing a lob to Durant. Jackson does a great job of boxing out Duncan to keep the ball in play. Incredible helpside positioning by Durant to prevent entry passes into the paint. Durant dives on the floor for a loose ball and forces a jump ball, which he wins. Beautiful bounce pass by Perkins and a slick backdoor cut by Westbrook for a dunk. Nick Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball to force a jump ball, resulting in a defensive stop.



“We played with toughness, we played with energy and we played together, and that’s been our recipe.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks