BLAZERS 98
THUNDER 94
6 Assists for Reggie Jackson, in addition to 12 points and seven rebounds

8-for-14 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who also had three blocks

13 Lead changes in the game, which also featured seven ties

22-9 The Thunder’s advantage in bench points, led by Jeremy Lamb’s 10

37 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to 14 rebounds and three assists

39.6 Shooting percentage allowed by the Thunder’s defense, including just 8-for-33 from the three-point line

46-28 The Thunder’s edge in points in the paint, where it held Portland to just 24 shot attempts

52-43 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night as it led 10-5 in second chance points

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Dec. 31st, 2013
RECAP:

After lazily drifting off of the rim from a missed free throw, the ball bounced around for what seemed like hours, hovering towards the baseline.

Thunder and Blazers hands scratched and clawed for it, but when it emerged from the pile, it was the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge who somehow had control. The Thunder’s defense had held, just like it did all night, but in the final minutes the ball bounced the wrong way a few times in the fourth quarter and that was the difference as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad fell 98-94 to move to 25-6 on the year.

“We had a good enough defensive game to win the game, but I thought in the second half it was too up-and-down,” Brooks said. “The offense was good for a moment and the defense was not good. Then the defense was good and the offense wasn’t good. We didn’t play as consistently as we’d like to play a two-way basketball game tonight.”

A characteristic the Thunder has been and will continue to strive for all season is consistency, which is something the team approaches together in practice, shoot-around and film sessions every day. Boxing out, maintaining defensive focus and executing sharply on offense are core tenets of the Thunder’s philosophy that the team executed on for most of the night, just not for the entire 48 minutes.

“These are things that we know we have to get better with,” Brooks said. “These are all correctable issues tonight.”

“Our guys are competitors and they gave everything they had, we just didn’t come up with the win,” Brooks continued.

Despite winning the battle of points in the paint, second chance points, bench points and rebounding, sometimes, the numbers don’t always add up to a victory. It’s the way the team played defense for the most part on the night that was a positive sign for the Thunder. Perennial All-Pro and team leader Kevin Durant led the Thunder’s efforts on offense with 37 points, a season-high 14 rebounds and three assists, but couldn’t get a late game-tying fadeaway in the lane to drop.

It was just one of those nights in the NBA where sometimes the ball rolls off the rim or bounces the wrong direction, but the Thunder can be proud of the way it held Portland, one of the league’s best offenses, to just 39.6 percent shooting, including 8-for-33 from three-point range.

“They made shots and played defense,” Durant said. “We had some tough breaks. We had some nice looks and didn’t make them.”

“I looked at the stat sheet and I think we beat them on everything,” Durant continued. “Our defense is predicated on making guys work, and I think tonight we did that.”

All in all, the Thunder finished the month of December with a 14-3 record, a remarkable accomplishment in the NBA. Heading into the new year of 2014, the Thunder is poised to continue growing on both ends of the floor both individually and as a unit in order to play its best basketball by the time the end of the season rolls around.

That process starts tomorrow at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center and on Thursday night when the team gets another chance to hit the court, with its first home clash of 2014 against the Brooklyn Nets.

“December was a really good month for us,” Durant said. “We lost three games in the month of December and in the NBA, that’s tough to do. We just have to keep our heads up, move forward and get ready for Brooklyn.”

TURNING POINT:

The game turned in the middle of the fourth quarter when the Blazers went on a 14-2 run to erase an 11-point Thunder lead and turn it into a one-point Blazers advantage. With the Thunder up 84-73 with 10:01 remaining, the run started with back-to-back buckets by Robin Lopez, then Nicolas Batum made a fast break layup in between two LaMarcus Aldridge jump shots. Aldridge and Batum then each made two free throws after a Reggie Jackson reverse layup to make it 87-86 Blazers. Jackson would hit a runner but a Nicolas Batum three-pointer gave the Blazers a two-point edge a possession later at 3:24 remaining, and the Thunder never led again.

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

Nice screen by Serge Ibaka to free up Kevin Durant for a three-pointer. Ibaka follows up a perfect screen with great hustle to the rim for a tip-in. Reggie Jackson dives into the passing lane to make a steal in transition defense. Thabo Sefolosha selflessly tips a defensive rebound to a teammate. Derek Fisher keeps his hands up and slaps the ball out of bounds, disrupting a Blazers possession. Incredible awareness by Nick Collison to find a man and box out after a long Blazers three. Fisher pressures his man and forces a turnover. Collison sprints to the corner and saves a ball in bounds. Excellent early post-up by Ibaka in transition against a smaller man. Incredible hustle play by Sefolosha to come up with a loose ball after a scramble.

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

Durant dives in on the defensive boards to tip one out to himself to regain possession. Ibaka hustles back from the elbow to impact a shot and force a miss. Nice gang rebounding by Sefolosha and Ibaka to complete a possession. Strong screen by Steven Adams frees up the lane for Durant to dissect the defense. Collison hustles one-on-three to come up with a loose offensive rebound and then knock it out off of the Blazers. Solid team defense forces the Blazers into a shot clock violation. Jackson dives out of boudns and slams the ball out of bounds off the opponent.



“That was a heck of a game. That was like a playoff-intensity game in December. It was unfortunate we didn’t come up with the win.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks

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