Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Blazers

THUNDER 98
BLAZERS 95
1-for-17 Shooting numbers the Thunder held LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard to in the second half

7-for-14 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, which shot 48.2 percent overall

12-for-45 Shooting numbers that the Thunder’s defense held Portland to in the second half

13 Number of Jeremy Lamb’s 19 total points that he scored in the first half

17 Number points for Reggie Jackson, all of which came after halftime

13-5 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points on the night

34-21 Advantage for the Thunder in bench points, including nine for Nick Collison, all in the first half

36 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to ten rebounds and two assists

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Feb. 11th, 2014
RECAP:

PORTLAND – With the game on the line, the Thunder got the buckets and stops it needed, but it was the effort that put the team in position to win throughout the course of the game that was most impressive.

In a 98-95 road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club faced adversity from a variety of angles, trailing by as many as 13, including by ten at halftime. By methodically chipping away throughout the night, the Thunder battled together and didn’t let missed shots, tough makes by Portland or unlucky bounces derail their teamwork.

After falling behind 19-6 early on the Thunder could have gotten frustrated. Instead, it banded together behind the leadership of Kevin Durant, Nick Collison and others, pulling out a full team win because of stout second half defense, timely shooting and the internal drive to get the job done.

“I like the way our guys competed and just kept hanging in there,” Brooks said. “We were down and a lot of things didn’t go our way but we just kept fighting and battling and we made it a game in the fourth quarter.”

“We fought hard,” Durant explained. “We’re a resilient team. We don’t only play hard when we’re winning. We’re not only happy when we’re winning. We keep our heads up through adversity and through tough times. That’s just how we are as an organization.”

Thanks to a 35-point third quarter, the Thunder erased its ten-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 80 heading into the final period. Early in the fourth, the Thunder was a bit disjointed, turning it over on four of five possessions, but only trailed 84-80 because its defense forced eight straight missed shots and a turnover during a two-minute stretch.

Derek Fisher then drained a three-pointer to pull the Thunder within one, then a Jeremy Lamb three-point play and Durant technical foul shot put the team up 84-87. From there on out it was a back-and-forth battle, all the way until the final two minutes, when the Blazers took a 95-93 lead with 1:54 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Reggie Jackson drove and dished to Lamb in the corner, who without hesitation, drained his shot to put the Thunder up 96-95 with 1:38 left.

From there on out, the two teams traded stops, culminating in four straight Blazers misses to end the game, with Jackson sealing the game with two free throws, and the Thunder forcing misses from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.

“Jeremy hit a big shot,” Brooks said. “That was good to see. We made the kick-out pass for him for the left corner three, and he knocked it in. I’m proud of everybody’s effort tonight.”

The Thunder’s defense to end the game ensured that Lamb’s huge three-ball would be the game-winner, but that effort was pervasive throughout the second half. Behind team-wide help-defense and superb individual effort by Kendrick Perkins on Aldridge, the Thunder held Portland to just 26.7 percent shooting in the second half, including 2-for-13 from behind the three-point line. Perkins forced Aldridge into a 5-for-22 shooting night, and in the second half, the Thunder held Aldridge and Lillard to just 1-for-17 shooting from the field combined.

“Perk was fantastic,” Brooks said. “He made Aldridge work for every catch and every shot that he took.”

“Perk did a great job on Aldridge, forcing him out and making him shoot those tough fall-aways,” Durant said. “He hit some of them because he’s a good player, but Perk did a great job on him all night.”

Locking in on defense always helps the Thunder get a rhythm and get back on track, but tonight that effort was aided by the offensive execution of Jeremy Lamb and Nick Collison. Kevin Durant led the team with 36 points and Reggie Jackson’s 17 points, all of which came after halftime, were crucial to the Thunder’s win. However, the pace and cadence with which the duo produced in the first half changed the energy of this game.

By scoring a combined 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting in the second quarter alone with pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops and driving runners, Lamb and Collison got the Thunder’s offense humming, priming the rest of the team for a second-half comeback.

“Jeremy, Nick and Fish did a great job of coming in and changing the tempo, moving that basketball around and making shots,” Durant explained. “Jeremy was great tonight and did a great job on both ends and played extremely hard. Nick was his usual self, getting everybody involved and playing hard.”

“We just kept pushing and we just kept grinding,” Perkins said. “Each guy came in, stepped up and gave us a huge lift. Especially off the bench tonight, Nick and Steven (Adams) played well, and (Derek Fisher) and Lamb. Sometimes you need that spark, and they came in and gave it, all of them.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder’s comeback was methodical, but a quick 12-4 burst by the squad midway through the third quarter turned this one into a barnburner. Trailing by nine at 66-57 with 7:07 remaining in the period, Reggie Jackson started off the run by making a back-cut, as Kendrick Perkins hit him in stride with a pass for a dunk. After forcing three straight missed shots, Kevin Durant fought on the offensive glass for a tip-in. Another Blazers miss led to a drive-and-dish by Jackson, returning the favor to Perkins for a 16-foot jumper.

Jackson drove to the lane for another dunk in between a Portland bucket and two Blazers free throws, then the Thunder point guard hit a 19-foot pull-up jumper. Another Blazers miss led to a Durant runner off the glass, making it 70-69 Blazers with 4:02 remaining. The Blazers would build its lead back up to four, but that was as far as it got before the Thunder battled back with a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead.

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

Nice recognition of where the double-team was coming from by Kevin Durant, who turned around to his other shoulder to get a shot off. Durant comes over in helpside defense to alter a Blazers shot and start a Thunder run-out. Strong box out by Nick Collison helps the Thunder get a defensive board to end a possession. Pretty side pick-and-roll from Derek Fisher to Collison for an easy bucket thanks to a perfect bounce pass. Incredible one-handed save by Collison under the rim to help the Thunder get possession back. Smart play by Reggie Jackson to sneak behind LaMarcus Aldridge and tip the ball away, then draw a foul.

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

Durant gets back in transition and slaps the ball away to prevent an easy fast break look. Good relocation by Ibaka into the corner to set up an easy pass for Durant. Nice decision in the lane by Jackson to stop on a dime and dish to Kendrick Perkins for a short corner jumper. Perfect back-pick by Perkins to free up the lane for Jackson. Perfect bounce pass by Fisher to Jeremy Lamb in transition for an and-one bucket. Ibaka fights repeatedly on the offensive glass to keep possession alive. Stout post defense by Perkins to keep Aldridge out of the lane.



“It was a physical game, but I like the fact that we kept competing. We didn’t let any of the things bother us and just competed possession by possession, and that’s what good teams do.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

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