6-for-11 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who finished with 15 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks
9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also had 17 points and nine rebounds
13-7 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points on the night
16-1 The Thunder’s run in the fourth quarter to seal the win
13-for-25 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night, including 2-for-2 by Reggie Jackson
34.5 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Bulls to on the night, including 5-for-22 from the three-point line
35 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to 12 rebounds and five assists
March 17th, 2014
CHICAGO – When the game pressure mounts, the Thunder digs deep.
After sustaining a tough run by the Chicago Bulls early in the fourth quarter on Monday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club responded in kind with a 16-1 burst that broke open a one-point game and turned it into a 97-85 victory. By getting defensive stops nearly every possession down floor, the Thunder held the Bulls to just 40 second half points, in addition to 34.5 percent shooting from the floor on the night.
The tone was set by Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson’s on-ball defense along the perimeter, while Serge Ibaka waited in the wings to not only block shots, but alter many more. The Thunder also denied clean looks from behind the three-point line, as the Bulls shot just 5-for-22 from beyond the arc.
“They were impacting the game and playing inspired defensive basketball,” Brooks said. “That’s what it’s about, inspiring your team on the defensive end and finding ways to score together. They did that throughout the game.”
The effort on defense was strong throughout the night, but against a tough, physical Bulls squad who hangs their hats on the defensive end, the Thunder knew it was bound for a dogfight. That battle presented itself at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Bulls made an 8-0 run and the Thunder missed four shots and turned the ball over on five of its first six possessions of the quarter. By banding together and by taking cues from Kevin Durant’s leadership, the Thunder responded to the game pressure with intensity, focus and grit.
“It definitely takes mental toughness, especially on the road,” Durant said. “We want to stay poised knowing that this game is about runs. They made theirs at the end of the second and in that fourth. We stayed with it, coach drew up some good plays and we were able to execute.”
The Thunder’s big run to close the game was thanks mostly to the defensive effort, but the way the Thunder executed down the stretch was also a crucial aspect of the win. After the Bulls pulled to within one point, the Thunder made assists on four out of its next five made field goals to get easy looks on every possession. With Westbrook and Durant working together in transition and in the pick-and-roll, the Thunder executed with precision, perfect timing and quickness to slam the door. Finishing its defensive stops with easy baskets on the other end effectively sealed the win for Brooks’ squad.
“Speed, that was my mindset as the point guard, to play with pace,” Westbrook said. “When you play at that speed, it’s tough to stop every option. There are a lot of different options. Kevin is such a great scorer, he creates a lot of attention, so a lot of guys will be open.”
“Our transition game is predicated off of getting stops,” Brooks said. “We did a good job because we made them miss a lot of shots. When we do that, we want to push the ball and find quick scores.”
Westbrook was the maestro, finishing with nine assists in addition to 17 points and nine rebounds, while Durant extended his consecutive games streak of scoring 25-or-more points to 32 with a 35-point, 12-rebound, five-assist, zero-turnover effort. Joining in on the double-digit scoring was Ibaka with 15, Caron Butler with 12 and Jackson with 11.
The Bulls stayed gritty, pulling back to within one point at 76-75 Thunder with 10:01 left in the game, but after a timeout, the Thunder went on a crucial 16-1 run that turned the game. After getting two consecutive defensive stops, Nick Collison found Derek Fisher for a big three-pointer to make it 79-75 with 8:38 remaining. A stout defensive possession forced the Bulls into a shot clock violation, then Reggie Jackson hit Serge Ibaka on a laser-sharp pass for a dunk.
After a timeout, the Thunder forced Chicago into another turnover before Russell Westbrook hit Kevin Durant in the pick-and-roll for a dunk. Three Caron Butler free throws were followed up by a Westbrook driving layup and a free throw, before Ibaka capped the run on a corner three-pointer to make it 92-76 with 3:13 left in the game. During the run, the Thunder forced 11 straight missed shots and two turnovers.
“Coach (Brooks) drew up a play where I set a pick and I roll,” Durant explained. “If they help on me, then Caron is coming out of the corner for a three. If they don’t, I have a dunk. Russ made two great passes but I think him coming off the screen hard opened up the defense a little bit. Serge knocking that three down helped out a little as well. We spread them out, were able to get some points in the paint and we got ourselves a good win.”
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Andre Roberson battles underneath the basket to regain possession for the Thunder. Steven Adams clears out the lane with a screen in transition to help Kevin Durant see a lane to the rim. Russell Westbrook slaps the ball away to disrupt a Bulls fast break. Durant closes out on a shooter to prevent both a pass to the corner and an easy shot from the wing. Nice helpside defense by Serge Ibaka to force a Bulls shot to soar way too high and miss the rim completely.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Andre Roberson keeps his hands up high and bats down an intended pass , disrupting a Bulls possession. Ibaka hustles back in transition defense to save a sure layup by blocking a shot at the rim. Adams dives out of bounds to save a rebound back into ta teammate then he sets multiple screens on the same play to free up Durant for a three-pointer. Ibaka fights down low for rebounding positioning, helping the Thunder get possession. Solid Thunder defense forces an air ball as the shot clock expired. Great hustle by Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison to both tip a loose ball, which ends up in Derek Fisher’s hands for a three-pointer.
“We did a good job as a group of keeping our composure. When they cut the lead to run, we hit some timely shots then we went on a 13-0 run. Give our guys credit. They hung in there, they played the physical game and they did a good job offensively of moving the basketball.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks