BLAZERS97
THUNDER105
5 Blocks for Serge Ibaka, who also had 10 points and five rebounds

5 Assists for Reggie Jackson, in addition to 15 points and seven rebounds

7-for-21 The shooting numbers the Thunder held the Blazers to in the fourth quarter, including 1-for-8 for LaMarcus Aldridge

8 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, who also scored four points and dished out two assists

10-for-15 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant’s 6-for-7 night

16-12 Second chance points edge for the Thunder, thanks to 15 offensive rebounds

19Points scored by the Thunder off of 10 Blazers turnovers, compared to just eight points for the Blazers off of seven Thunder turnovers

46 Points for Kevin Durant on the night, on 17-for-25 shooting, in addition to five rebounds and four assists

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Jan. 21st, 2013
RECAP:

Trailing by five with just 3:45 remaining, it looked like it might fall at home to the Portland Trail Blazers. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team clearly had other plans.

Behind Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins the Thunder took on the game pressure and made clutch, winning basketball plays down the stretch to come away with a 105-97 victory on Tuesday night.

The final four minutes of this fourth quarter oozed with intricate moments of strategy, execution and flat out hustle, as the Thunder used a game-changing 15-0 run to clinch the win. The burst began on an extremely tough driving lefty layup by Durant as seconds dripped off the shot clock, to pull the Thunder within three at 95-92. After Perkins forced LaMarcus Aldridge into a tough missed shot, Durant followed it up with a three-pointer to tie the game, much to the glee of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Coming out of a Blazers timeout, the Thunder’s suffocating defense forced a turnover, which Reggie Jackson capitalized on with a runner in the lane off of a pick-and-roll with Serge Ibaka. On the ensuing defensive possession, Ibaka and Perkins combined to block three straight shots before Jackson drove the lane again to find Perkins in the short corner, where the big man knocked down a 15-foot jumper to put the Thunder up 99-95.

Two more Aldridge misses led to another possession for the Thunder, as Durant iced it with a dagger three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Thunder up 102-95 with 48.0 seconds remaining. On the Blazers’ last gasp, Perkins anticipated a deep pass into the corner and made a steal, setting up Durant’s final three-pointer to slam the door, and send the Thunder faithful into an absolute frenzy.

“I saw something at the top of the key,” Durant explained. “He was giving me some space, and I just needed a little bit of space to get my shot off. I felt good from the three-point line all game long, and I was able to knock those two threes down for us.”

“Every moment on the court is fun for me, no matter how the game is won,” Durant said. “You play this this game and you look to the bench and see your teammates are so happy for you. All I could do was smile because I know they’re genuinely happy for me and the team. It’s a great feeling knowing that you have your group of brothers out there supporting you no matter what.”

Durant finished the game with 46 points on 17-for-25 shooting from the field, including a sizzling 6-for-7 mark from behind the three-point arc, 11 in the final 3:23 on 4-for-4 shooting. The leadership, mental toughness and resolve seemingly emanated from him as he willed repeated remarkable shots into the bucket then turned to face his teammates on the bench with a look of confidence and intensity.

The sheer efficiency of Durant’s night was special on its own, but the manner in which everyone in the building was transfixed on his every move showed how much he has grown as a player through his own hard work and relentless motor. The crowd, and his teammates, hung on his emotion and tenacity, which he rewarded with yet another sensational performance, which included his eighth-straight game of 30-plus points.

“There’s no question we’re seeing an amazing player develop in front of our eyes,” Brooks said. “He’s an amazing young man who takes a lot of pride in what he does, how he plays and how he represents our city.”

It wasn’t just Durant whose heroics were critical to the Thunder’s victory, however. Perkins’ two defensive plays, a lunging block of Damian Lillard at the rim on a slick Blazers’ in-bounds play denied Portland on a key late possession, then his steal of a late in-bounds pass sealed the victory. The play that had teammates and the crowd buzzing, however, was the 15-foot jumper he hit with 1:36 remaining to put the Thunder up by four.

Usually a weapon on offense because of his screen setting and passing, Perkins was given an opportunity in rhythm thanks to a nice drive-and-dish from Jackson, and he calmly knocked down the look that he spends extra time on after practice each and every day.

“(Perkins) just has so much confidence in himself and we have confidence in him,” Durant said. “That was a huge shot. He played hard defense all game so to see him get rewarded with that was refreshing.”

As Durant mentioned, Perkins’ calling card, defense, couldn’t be ignored tonight either. Despite facing one of the toughest covers in the league, LaMarcus Aldridge, Perkins stuck to his gameplan and forced the Blazers’ forward into difficult, fade-away two-point jumpers outside the paint all night long. Finally, in the fourth quarter, Perkins’ persistence and hard work rewarded him, as Aldridge finished the game 1-for-8.

Instead of taking the praise for himself, after the game Perkins decided to dole some out to teammates, like Thabo Sefolosha who held Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard to just 1-for-5 shooting in the second half, in addition to big men Nick Collison and Steven Adams, who played with physicality down low to help the Thunder rack up 15 offensive rebounds.

“We didn’t give up,” Perkins explained. “The time we went down five, we had to get a stop and we did it. I just felt like we’re growing. You can tell on the defensive end. They hit some shots. Portland is a good team, and they make shots. We started making them miss.” “We did a great job of that, coming out and playing physical,” Perkins continued. “Thabo did a great job of Lillard. He’s been doing a great job lately defending. We just need that everybody. Nick and Steven were great off the bench too.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder wrestled away control of this game in the final three minutes of regulation with its 15-0 run to seal the victory, but the attitude and tone of the game was altered twice earlier in the action. At the end of the first half the Thunder turned a 48-40 deficit with 3:03 left into a 51-50 lead with just 8.3 seconds remaining thanks to three assists by Reggie Jackson. The point guard found Kevin Durant for a three, Serge Ibaka for a jumper and Thabo Sefolosha for a jumper, which surrounded an 11-2 stretch where Ibaka also hit two free throws and Durant hit a jumper.

The second Thunder burst, and perhaps the most critical to momentum, came in the final minutes of the third quarter when a 75-66 Blazers lead with 2:35 left evaporated into a 77-75 Thunder lead to end the quarter thanks to Derek Fisher’s three pointer, then eight straight Durant points. Durant hit two three pointers along with two free throws during the Thunder’s 11-0 run, as it forced three missed shots and two turnovers on the defensive end.

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

Thabo Sefolosha saves a bucket by hustling back in helpside defense to make a tough blocked shot. Excellent defensive recovery by Serge Ibaka to get back and slap away an entry pass. Ibaka gets over in helpside defense to block a shot right at the rim and start a Thunder fast break. Steven Adams sticks with the play down low and gets a put back bucket. Adams and Reggie Jackson dive on the floor for a loose ball to regain possession. Jeremy Lamb sticks with his own miss and then knocks in a short jumper. Jackson stays with it and a loose ball squirts back to the Thunder leading to a Nick Collison to Adams alley-oop. Excellent help rotation by Ibaka to force LaMarcus Aldridge into a turnover.

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

Durant uses his length to swat away a pass on the wing to disrupt a Blazers possession. Jackson instinctively goes after a loose defensive rebound and then saves it inbounds. Perkins sets an amazing screen to free up Durant for a drive. Derek Fisher fights through a screen and draws an offensive foul. Smart double team in the corner forces the Blazers into a difficult possession at the end of the shot clock. Collison and Adams alternate screening for Lamb, who works his way into the lane for a bucket. Lamb flies in to tip a defensive rebound out of the opponents’ hand and into a teammate’s.



“It was always about our team defense. Throughout the game were just going to keep chipping away and hopefully we were going to start making some shots, and we did.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks