BOBCATS 99
THUNDER 116
10 Steals by the Thunder as the team forced 18 turnovers that led to 25 points

10-for-12 Shooting numbers for Russell Westbrook, who hit his first eight shots and finished with 26 points and five assists

15-6 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night

19-3 The Thunder’s edge in second chance points thanks to its defensive rebounding which held Charlotte to just two offensive rebounds

31-18 The Thunder’s scoring advantage in the fourth quarter

39 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 17 from Reggie Jackson

44-29 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night, led by Serge Ibaka’s 10

50-32 The Thunder’s edge in points in the paint, which it dominated 30-10 in the second half

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
March 2nd, 2014
RECAP:

The Thunder dug down on defense, and that buildup helped it explode on offense.

Battling with a pesky Charlotte Bobcats team that was grinding on defense and hitting some shots on offense, the Thunder turned up the intensity in the fourth quarter out-scoring Charlotte 31-18 in the final frame en route to a 116-99 victory. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club racked up four of its ten steals and forced eight turnovers in the final quarter, while also executing its own offense to precision as it shot 13-for-24 from the field and only turned the ball over one time over the final 12 minutes. It was a wire-to-wire victory for the Thunder, but one that came with great energy and effort on both sides of the ball.

“We just had to get good offense,” forward Kevin Durant said. “Coach (Brooks) drew up some great plays for us in the fourth and I think that gave us some good energy. We closed the paint up and we made them shoot over hands.”

“We did a great job of scrambling and they had to shoot a few with two or three seconds on the shot clock,” Durant continued. “Once we do that and use our length, show a presentation on defense and get in a stance, we’re a good defensive team when we do that.”

Derek Fisher accounted for four of the Thunder’s ten steals, including two in the decisive 26-8 run that propelled the team to victory midway through the fourth quarter. By digging into the post and anticipating passes along the wing, Fisher led a group of Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka as the team ratcheted up the defensive activity level. Charlotte shot just 4-for-13 in the fourth quarter, and it was the Fisher-inspired effort to get through screens, stay in the passing lanes and be physical that got the job done.

“(Fisher) was very aggressive for us and helped us get out in transition,” Jackson explained. “He also boxed out and did a lot of little things. The team kind of turned it up from there. We just got stops, tried to get out and run and use our athleticism to our advantage.”

The Thunder worked with a pretty balanced attack on offense, with Durant and Westbrook combining for 54 points and ten assists, with Jackson adding 17 points and Serge Ibaka racking up a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double. Westbrook ensured that everyone on the squad got to touch the ball, helping Fisher to six points, Nick Collison and Jeremy Lamb to seven each and Perry Jones and Steven Adams to four apiece.

Not only did Westbrook share the wealth, he was humming on offense himself. By starting the game shooting 8-for-8 from the field, Westbrook was clearly feeling it from all over the floor, finishing 10-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-5 from the three-point line on his way to 26 points. The exclamation point on his night was a monstrous one-handed dunk in transition after a steal, which turned up the heat in Chesapeake Energy Arena despite the wintry weather outside.

“I thought Russell really had a great command of the game,” Brooks said. “I think it is good to see him continue to get his game legs under him. I give the staff a lot of credit they have put him in a position to get better day-by-day. I thought he really controlled the game tonight.”

Westbrook’s ball-handling and shooting night was a huge factor for the Thunder, but the team looks beyond the box score for different ways its players impact the game. Jones stepped in for the injured Thabo Sefolosha, getting the start at the two guard, and displayed his versatility.

Hasheem Thabeet also performed at a high level when called upon tonight, playing 18 minutes of extremely active, tough basketball. He may not have attempted a shot, but his three blocks, two steals and five rebounds were a factor tonight. Despite not seeing much action recently, Thabeet stayed ready over the past few weeks and had the support of his teammates when he was called upon.

“I just have great guys around me,” Thabeet said. “They encourage me, night in and night out. You go through a lot of work every day and for me, just to be a part of it, and get some minutes is just great. I’ve just got to keep working.”

TURNING POINT:

It was a tightly contested game through three quarters, but after the Bobcats cut the Thunder’s lead to 86-84 with 9:50 remaining, the team went on a 26-8 run. The stretch was closed emphatically by a 14-0 burst to make certain the game’s final outcome would go in the Thunder’s favor. With a 98-92 lead with 6:10 remaining, Russell Westbrook hit Kevin Durant for a 10-foot turnaround jumper, then the Thunder’s defense held strong to force a shot clock violation.

After a time out, Westbrook again hit Durant, this time for a layup, then Derek Fisher jumped the passing lane getting out in transition to drop off a pass to Serge Ibaka for a layup. Back-to-back three-pointers by Westbrook and Ibaka were each followed up by Bobcats turnovers, the second of which Reggie Jackson stole along the wing and finished with a fast break layup. When the burst was done, the Thunder led 112-92 with 2:56 remaining.

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

Steven Adams hustles on the offensive boards to slap the ball off a Bobcats player and create an extra possession. Strong five-man defense forces Charlotte into a shot-clock violation. Perfect work on a defensive switch by Serge Ibaka to force a smaller man into a late pass, resulting in a shot clock violation. Nice spacing within the offensive flow as Ibaka was in position to follow up a missed shot with a put-back. An incredible one-handed, lefty pass by Westbrook puts Ibaka in position to draw a foul. Steven Adams sets a perfect screen to free up Westbrook for a jumper.

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

Ibaka and Perry Jones hustle back in transition defense to prevent a sure layup and regain possession. Excellent work by Adams in the pant to seal off his man and open the lane up for Jones to drive. Strong individual post defense by Hasheem Thabeet to thwart a post-up attempt. Thabeet’s energy breaks up an entry pass attempt, disrupting a Bobcats possession. Derek Fisher saves a ball in-bounds to regain possession for the Thunder. Great fight by Reggie Jackson defending a much bigger post man to make sure he didn’t get an entry pass.



“We started playing physical basketball. That middle of the third, throughout the fourth quarter was a good defensive mindset that we had. We’re getting back to it.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks

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