7 Number of Thunder players who had at least one steal
9 Assists for Russell Westbrook tonight, in addition to 24 points and three rebounds
13 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, a game-high, in addition to 16 points
13-for-31 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, which started 6-for-10
24 Bench points for the Thunder, led by eight from Reggie Jackson
28 Points for Kevin Durant on 10-for-16 shooting, in addition to ten rebounds and nine assists
48.8 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on th enight
Feb. 26th, 2014
Taking pride on every possession has been a staple of the Thunder’s defensive DNA over the past few years. In a 114-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team didn’t perform to those standards, but the squad knows it can get back to playing with focus and toughness on that end.
Through the first three quarters, the Thunder played well defensively in stretches, but the Cavaliers scored 42 points in the final frame. By boosting its shooting percentage for the game to 46.5 percent from 40 percent over the final 12 minutes thanks to 14-for-21 shooting, Cleveland surged past the Thunder in the closing minutes with a 15-2 burst. On offense the Thunder scored enough points to win, but defensively it allowed too many open looks and put the Cavaliers at the free throw line too many times to get the job done.
“Defensively we’re not getting after it enough,” Brooks said. “We’ve been a great defensive team the last three years and we just have to keep focusing on that end and it will turn back around for us.”
The Thunder let up 11 three-pointers and its 20 turnovers resulted in 21 points for Cleveland, but the breakdowns weren’t coming from one spot or one player. As a unit, the Thunder understands that it takes all five men on the floor to execute a defensive possession to as close to perfection as possible, which is necessary in order to force an NBA opponent to miss a shot or turn the ball over.
On Wednesday, the number of times the Thunder was successful at doing so and the number of consecutive possessions that it held Cleveland without a bucket weren’t enough. Team leaders like Nick Collison, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are battled tested and faced adversity before, so they know it will be up to the entire roster to problem solve together, focusing on being at their best and as a cohesive unit on each play.
“We haven’t been consistent enough,” Collison explained. “Each possession where there is a breakdown, there is something that went wrong. Sometimes that is communication. Sometimes it’s focus. That’s the human element of the season. You need to try to be engaged and play the play in front of you every single possession.”
“We just have to figure it out,” Durant said. “We have to help everybody else out and figure out what we’re doing wrong out there… We just have to focus on the next game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Durant paced the Thunder with 28 points, ten rebounds and nine assists on a supremely efficient 10-for-16 shooting night, while Serge Ibaka chipped in 16 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Perhaps the brightest spot on the night was the play of Westbrook, who scored 24 points and handed out nine assists, putting together his most productive night since returning to the starting lineup.
As a leader, however, Westbrook emphatically stated that his personal numbers are irrelevant. All he and his Thunder teammates care about is the score in the team’s win-loss column.
“This league is all about wins,” Westbrook said. “It’s not about individual performances. Every night you want to come out and win games. It’s based on winning games whether or not you win a championship, and that’s what you want to do.”
The Thunder led by two at 97-95 with 4:35 remaining in the game after a Kevin Durant three-pointer, but the Cavaliers responded with a 15-2 run over the ensuing three minutes to put the game away. The burst started with back-to-back three-pointers by Jerrett Jack and Kyrie Irving, then after a Thunder turnover, Spencer Hawes hit a runner. Kevin Durant sank a bucket to cut Cleveland’s lead to four, but Hawes hit another bucket and Irving converted an old-fashioned three-point play. For good measure, Jack hit a floater to make it 110-99 Cavaliers with 1:01 remaining.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Slickly designed play to start the game as Russell Westbrook posts up, draws a defender then drops off a pass to Steven Adams for a dunk. Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha communicate in transition to get a stop. Kevin Durant keeps his hands high in the passing lane to deflect a pass head to the wing. Incredible, no-look over-the-head pass by Durant frees up Ibaka for a jumper. All five Thunder players hustle back in transition to force a turnover then stop Cleveland in the halfcourt on back-to-back possessions.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Perfectly timed screen from Ibaka at the top of the key frees up Durant for a wide-open three-pointer. Nick Collison comes out at a timeout to help discuss a defensive coverage with Westbrook and Adams. Collison slides over in helpside defense to draw a charge on a Cavalier. Nice defense by Jeremy Lamb to move his feet, stay in front of his man and force a turnover. Westbrook hustles back in transition to slap the ball away, preventing a sure layup. Ibaka fights underneath to slap a rebound back out to create an extra possession.
“In an NBA season you’re going to have some ups and downs and you just have to stay with what we do and keep believing in each other. Our guys have always done that. I’m very confident that it’s going to continue to be that way.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks