7-for-7 Free throw shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who finished with 24 points
11 Points for Reggie Jackson on the night, including nine in the second half
16 Turnovers forced by the Thunder, leading to 16 points
20 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, tying a career-high, including 16 on the defensive end
26 Points for Russell Westbrook in addition to four assists and three rebounds
34.9 Shooting percentage on the night for the Bucks
52-39 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the bucks in the second half, allowing just 14 fourth quarter points
Nov. 16th, 2013
MILWAUKEE – Suffocating might be too gentle of a word to describe the Thunder’s defensive effort on Saturday night.
Holding the Milwaukee Bucks to just 34.9 percent shooting from the field, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder team put the stamp of its identity directly on its 92-79 win. By forcing 16 turnovers that led to 16 Thunder points, the team took advantage of defense-to-offense opportunities, but it was the way the team played fundamentally sound defense all night that made the biggest impression.
The man who stood out in the effort was Derek Fisher, whose number was called to defend shooters on the perimeter. He muscled through screens, stayed glued to his man and disrupted the timing and flow of the Bucks’ offense, epitomizing the effort the entire Thunder squad put on display.
“The guy that was the unsung hero of tonight’s game was Fisher,” Brooks said. “He didn’t score a point, but he impacted the game. I told the guys after the game, that’s a classic example of how you play. You play with your heart every possession and good things will happen.”
“I thought Derek was incredible,” forward Nick Collison said. “A big part of what they do is try to get OJ Mayo and Gary Neal shots, and we didn’t give those guys any space.”
A tie game at halftime, the Thunder pulled away with a 21-6 run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, and were paced by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant who combined for 50 points on 17-for-35 shooting. While shots may not have been falling for the Thunder at the usual clip, fortunately Brooks and company had a player who can change the game in other ways. Serge Ibaka was a force on both ends of the floor, but in particular around the glass, where he scooped up a career-high-tying 20 rebounds, including 16 on the defensive end.
“Serge was great and incredibly active,” Collison said. “When he’s active like that, we’re tough to beat.
“For him to be able to challenge shots and rebound, it’s tough,” Collison continued. “But when he plays like that and we’re giving teams one shot, a contested shot, we’re going to win most of those games if we can do that consistently. He was incredible. He’s been playing great. If he keeps it up, it’ll really help us.”
Ibaka also finished with four blocks and 15 points, using his mid-range jump shot, toughness to finish around the rim and even a shimmy-shake post move to create a couple of opportunities on his own. The continued development of the Congolese forward has been steady over the past four years, but teammates and coaches are noticing that his performances are becoming more regular and that he is putting a critical, palpable mark on the game almost every night.
“Serge’s performance was outstanding with the way he impacted the paint with his blocks, altering shots and rebounds,” Brooks said. “He’s standing out that he can be the guy who can get ten rebounds a night. The thing I love about it is that it has been nine games and it’s been pretty consistent. That’s what makes you a very good pro, the consistency.”
“(Serge) is cleaning up everything for us, rebounding, blocking shots, making shots,” Durant said. “We want him to keep playing the way he’s playing. He’s doing everything for us.”
Ibaka’s ferocity on the glass was an important aspect to the overall way the game was played on Saturday night, but it was the way the Thunder played all night on the defensive end that directly led to the final result. Holding Milwaukee to just 14 fourth quarter points was a crucial key to breaking away, as was a personal 9-2 run by Reggie Jackson during that 21-6 run. By attacking the rim, controlling the tempo and finishing shots from different places on the floor, Jackson used his athleticism and growing steadiness to help the Thunder break away.
“He came out and was aggressive,” Durant said of Jackson. “That’s what we need him to do. We don’t want him to overthink. He’s the point guard and trying to figure out when to be aggressive to score and when to be aggressive to pass. He’s still learning, just like everybody else.”
“He was able to get into the paint and finish around the rim,” further Brooks explained. “He’s one of our better finishers. He has to continue to make the right decisions.”
The Thunder trailed 59-56 with 4:34 left in the third quarter, but to end the period and start the fourth, it took control of the game with a 21-6 run to put Brooks’ team up 77-65 with 10:09 left in the game. The burst was fueled by the Thunder’s defense, which forced six turnovers during the seven-minute span. On the offensive end, the run started with a Kevin Durant 15-foot jumper and a free throw, then a pull-up jumper from Russell Westbrook that the Thunder point guard followed up with a three-pointer and two free throws. Steven Adams then knocked home two free throws before Reggie Jackson took over, scoring nine straight points to close out the surge.
“Defensively we were really good, disrupting the ball,” Durant said. “We contested and we fought hard all night… Overall, defensively we played well and offensively in the second half we moved the ball, got some good shots and we were able to pull away a little bit.”
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong box out by Kendrick Perkins to keep his man off the glass. Pretty triangle passing by Kevin Durant, Andre Roberson and Kendrick Perkins to create space for a Serge Ibaka dunk. Nick Collison smartly tips a defensive rebound instead of trying to grab it, letting Jeremy Lamb snag it. Nice anticipation by Lamb to jump the passing lane to disrupt a possession. Great fight on the offensive glass by Steven Adams to keep a possession alive. Pretty bounce pass in traffic by Adams to Reggie Jackson for a layup. Slick backdoor cut by Russsell Westbrook to get an easy basket at the rim.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Incredible non-verbal communication between Durant and Ibaka to create a backdoor pass and easy dunk. Great hustle by Durant to dive on the floor for a loose ball and get a jump ball. Durant saves the ball in-bounds to retain possession, then uses a crafty head fake to draw a defender to commit a foul. Strong defense on the perimeter by Derek Fisher and Lamb to force a turnover. Toughness by Fisher to fight through multiple screens and close out on his man, forcing a travel.
“I was really encouraged with our play overall tonight. Defensively we were good. It wasn’t a game where we shot great and things came easy for us, but I think we played the right way. Defensively we were able to get a lot of stops and lock in in the fourth quarter.” – forward Nick Collison