76ERS 92
THUNDER 125
12 Steals by the Thunder, in addition to ten blocks, including one apiece by Caron Butler in his first Thunder game

20:17 Minutes played by Russell Westbrook, in which he recorded a triple double, the second fastest in NBA history

31 Assists for the Thunder on the night, led by Russell Westbrook’s 14

33 The scoring margin in the Thunder’s favor, the largest margin of victory for the team this season

42 Points for Kevin Durant on 14-for-20 shooting, in addition to nine rebounds, three assists and two steals

42 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 14 from Reggie Jackson, eight from Derek Fisher and seven eight from Jeremy Lamb and Hasheem Thabeet

57-38 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night, including a season-high 48 defensive rebounds

58-36 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, where it shot 29-for-40 and held Philadelphia to 18-for-49 shooting

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
March 4th, 2014
RECAP:

Usually the words aggressiveness and patience can’t be used together, but the way Russell Westbrook led the Thunder on Tuesday night might change that.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club finished off a six-game home stand with a 125-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, its largest margin of the season, thanks to stout defense and the attacking play of its point guard on offense. With both quickness and precision, Westbrook sliced up the defense early and often, dishing out eight of his season-high 14 assists in the first quarter alone, breaking his own Thunder record with 11 assists in the first half.

By working in the pick-and-roll with Serge Ibaka, Westbrook continually found the rangy power forward along with Kevin Durant and Perry Jones along the wings for easy shot opportunities. The team as a whole shot 56.6 percent from the field with 31 assists in the game, including 14-for-20 with 12 assists in the first quarter alone.

“(Westbrook) does a great job of getting us in our sets,” Brooks said. “He’s looking for plays, he’s looking for openings for himself or situations where he attracts a double team then passes the ball immediately. He set the tone.”

“(Westbrook) made everybody better tonight,” Durant explained. “He was moving the basketball and was aggressive to the rim. I think that’s why everybody got open, because of his aggressiveness. He just set the tone for us.”

Westbrook dazzled with his passing, which included an array of sensational, one-handed bounce passes, cross-court chest passes into the corner for shooters and lobs to players at the rim. The Thunder point guard also managed to control other aspects of the game, recording his eighth career triple-double and second of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go with his 14 assists. Thanks to a Thunder defensive performance that held the 76ers to just 34 percent shooting, Westbrook only needed 20:17 to complete his triple double, the second fastest to do so in NBA history.

“It’s crazy,” Westbrook said. “I’m just trying to get my groove back. I’m blessed to be able to do that in such a short amount of time. It was fun.”

As Westbrook sliced and diced his way through the lane to pick out teammates with his passes, fellow leader Durant was waiting with ready hands for shot opportunities. On an efficient 14-for-20 shooting night, Durant scored 42 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out three assists while making two steals and a block in just 33 minutes of action.

Ibaka, Jones and Reggie Jackson each scored in double figures, while Derek Fisher added eight points and Jeremy Lamb and Hasheem Thabeet each notched seven points. Everyone shared the ball on Tuesday night, making the game all that more fun for everyone on the floor.

“We were moving the basketball and guys were setting great screens. We were just all setting each other up and I was able to get some easy ones early on to get me going. Russell did a great job of setting me up and I just tried to finish for him.”

The player who may have enjoyed himself the most on Tuesday night was newcomer Caron Butler, who played his first minutes in a Thunder uniform. He went 25:42 tonight, scoring two points, grabbing five rebounds and racking up one assist, steal and block apiece.

His adjustment and integration into the Thunder’s rotation, schemes and personnel will be a gradual one, but his reception amongst the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd was immediate. When he checked into the game at the 5:26 mark of the first quarter, Butler received a long standing ovation, making him feel right at home.

“That was unbelievable,” Butler said. “I didn’t expect that. I didn’t know how to feel, I was just excited to be back out there playing.”

Most importantly for Butler and the Thunder, the faithful in the arena got to see one of the best efforts from the team all season on both ends of the floor. On defense, where the Thunder hangs its hat, Brooks’ squad made 12 steals and blocked ten shots, leading to 27 fast break points.

In the paint, the Thunder dominated both the boards and the scoring, holding a 57-38 rebounding advantage and a 58-36 points in the paint edge. When the Thunder forces difficult shots then closes out the possession with a strong rebound, it turns those stops into easy offense, which is the formula for Thunder Basketball.

“We’re just trying to get back to our DNA which is defense first and moving the basketball,” Durant said. “30 assists tonight is a step in the right direction.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder had built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but mid-way through the second period, the 76ers cut its deficit to just eight points at 41-33 with 6:40 remaining in the half. Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks called a timeout, sparking an 11-0 run that would create a 19-point lead that would swell to as large as 37 and never dip below 11 the rest of the way.

The burst started with a Derek Fisher three-point jumper after Kevin Durant pitched the ball ahead to Russell Westbrook in transition, then a Westbrook steal led to two Perry Jones free throws and a Kevin Durant technical foul shot. Two consecutive Philadelphia misses led to Thunder fast breaks, the first ending with a Westbrook to Durant layup and the next a Fisher to Serge Ibaka old-fashioned three-point play. With 4:34 left in the half, the Thunder’s lead had swelled to 52-33, and the team never looked back.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:

Great seal by Steven Adams in the lane to open up a driving lane for Serge Ibaka. Adams fights under the defensive glass then saves a rebound in bounds. Incredible non-verbal communication by Kevin Durant and Perry Jones on a backdoor-cut for an in-bounds pass. Adams battles on the offensive glass and it forces a 76ers player to knock the ball out of bounds. Excellent anticipation in the backcourt by Jeremy lamb to pick-off an outlet pass. Incredible recognition of time on the clock by Durant to throw a perfect pitch-ahead pass to Lamb as the first quarter ends.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:

Westbrook fights through a screen out top to draw an offensive foul, then he anticipates a lob pass to a much bigger man to force a turnover. Great helpside rotation by Hasheem Thabeet to be in position to swat away a layup attempt. Perfect communication by the Thunder’s five defensive teammates helps force a shot clock violation. Smart foul by Nick Collison to prevent a Philadelphia fast break from starting. Caron Butler hustles to tip a defensive rebound to a teammate then scraps for a loose ball. Thabeet hustles to track down a loose offensive rebound, setting up a Lamb three-pointer.



”Defensively we were really good throughout the game. We were active, we were in the passing lanes, we were contesting shots and we did a great job with rebounding and then passing.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks

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