5 Players who scored in double figures for the Thunder, including 10 points apiece for Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb
10 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, including four on the offensive end
11-4 Edge in fast break points for the Thunder on the night
12-6 Advantage in second chance points for the Thunder on the night
13-for-29 Shooting numbers that the Thunder allowed to the Bobcats in the paint for only 26 points
34 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to 12 rebounds and six assists
37.5 Shooting percentage allowed to the Bobcats by the Thunder on the night
Dec. 27th, 2013
CHARLOTTE –- Swirling down like water into a drain, the seconds ticked down on a Bobcats possession while Kendrick Perkins countered every Al Jefferson move with a hand in his face.
Eventually, the buzzer sounded and the Thunder had won yet another possession on defense, forcing the Charlotte Bobcats into a third shot clock violation.
Suffocating and persistent were the most apt attributes to describe the Thunder’s defensive effort in an 89-85 grinder victory over the Bobcats on Friday night. While both teams fought to execute on both ends of the floor, the Thunder made three of its four final free throws and got two big stops to snatch the win. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club takes every possession seriously and it proved its worth in the Thunder’s seventh straight road victory as it held Charlotte to just 37.5 percent shooting and only 26 points in the paint.
“It’s what we take pride in,” Brooks said. “We’re a defensive team. We’re a team that can score, but we’re a defensive team. We take pride in every possession. We take pride in stopping our man from scoring, contesting shots and rebounding.”
“That’s two great defensive teams going at it,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We wanted to match their energy on the defensive end. We did a good job of closing the paint up, just playing hard and contesting shots. We couldn’t make shots on the other end but we didn’t let it dictate our defense and that’s how we won the game.”
Just hours after the news was announced that Thunder guard Russell Westbrook underwent surgery to deal with swelling in his injured right knee, team leaders Kevin Durant and Nick Collison rallied the team together.
Relying on experienced veterans like Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher and young, emerging players like Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and Perry Jones, the Thunder put together one of its hungriest performances of the season.
By playing together and as a cohesive unit, the Thunder will persevere through the stretch of games until at least the All Star Break that it faces without Westbrook.
“The only thing we can do to honor him is play as hard as we can every night and continue to trust and lean on each other,” Durant said.
The Thunder’s defense was a sight to behold, but the offense was a bit of a struggle, which was understandable as the team faced one of the league’s best defenses in Charlotte while continuing to work through adjusting to Westbrook’s absence. Nevertheless, Brooks’ club managed to find looks that it wanted and kept turnovers to a low 12, but shots didn’t fall with their normal consistency.
For one player, however, scoring came in ebbs and flows as Durant tallied up 34 points on 14-for-28 shooting. On a bevy of moves that got him shots at the rim, three-pointers and jumpers in the lane, Durant’s arsenal was on display.
“We put him in situations where he can attack,” Brooks said. “He puts a lot of pressure on defenses. He can shoot over the top and pass over the top on double teams. He’s a great player. He makes winning basketball plays.”
The All-Pro forward was aided by Ibaka and Sefolosha chipping in 12 points apiece while Jackson and Lamb each put up 10 points, in addition to teammates helping him find space within the flow of the offense. In the fourth quarter though, Durant was sublime as he racked up 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting as he continued creating shots for not only himself but his teammates as well.
“I saw something that I liked when I had the ball,” Durant explained. “I had a bigger guy on me most of the game and I just tried to be aggressive. My shots were falling, my teammates were looking for me all night and were able to get me some easy shots.”
“My teammates are setting great screens and making great passes and I just have to do my job and finish them,” Durant continued.
The final outcome was determined in the closing minutes, but a 22-3 run that spanned halftime broke the game open. It was 36-30 Bobcats with 3:49 remaining in the half but by the time 8:28 in the third quarter rolled around, the Thunder led 52-39.
Kevin Durant started the run when he hit two free throws, Reggie Jackson hit a three-pointer off of a Serge Ibaka dish and then Durant hit back-to-back buckets in the lane. After two offensive rebounds on one possession, Durant drives and finds Sefolosha for three to finish the first half scoring.
Coming out of the halftime break, Kendrick Perkins hit a back-door-cutting Durant for a layup on a bounce pass then Sefolosha drove to find Ibaka for a wide open jumper. After a Anthony Tolliver three-pointer for Charlotte, Reggie Jackson hit a transition jumper, Durant made a layup on a drive and then Jackson hammered home a dunk. During the run the Thunder’s defense was stout, forcing 12 misses on 13 shot attempts.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Nice jab step by Serge Ibaka to clear space and help him drain a jumper. Great job by Ibaka to contest at the rim and force Kemba Walker into a difficult missed layup. Incredible patience by Reggie Jackson in transition to find Thabo Sefolosha in the corner in the secondary break. Slick cut from the key to the rim by Jeremy Lamb for an open layup and a nice find from Ibaka. Excellent hustle from Derek Fisher to get back in transition and draw a charge. Perfect transition screen by Steven Adams to give Kevin Durant a lane to the rim. Wonderful team defense by the Thunder, and Adams in the post in particular, to force a shot clock violation.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Kendrick Perkins and Durant show they’re in perfect sync with a back-door cut and bounce pass for an easy Durant finish. Great concentration by Ibaka to stuff a would-be dunk and then Sefolsoha calmly saves the ball in bounds. Smart pass fake by Sefolosha to shake his defender and give himself an open three-pointer. Strong screens free up Lamb for a jumper to beat the shot clock. Nick Collison stays straight up and maintains his footing to draw a big charge. Nice vision by Adams to find a cutting Lamb under the hoop. Superb bounce pass by Collison to Adams for a jam in the lane. Stout one-on-one post defense by Perkins forces a shot clock violation.
“Our defense was superb tonight. We did a good job of making them miss shots and not hoping that they miss. That’s our mentality.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks