8 Number of Thunder players who grabbed four or more rebounds, led by Steven Adams’ seven
8-for-10 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who had 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks
25 Assists for the Thunder, including 17 in the second half compared to just five turnovers
28 Kevin Durant’s scoring total for the night, in addition to eight assists and six rebounds
35 Bench scoring for the Thunder, led by 11 from Jeremy Lamb and nine by Reggie Jackson
51.9-41.3 Differential in shooting percentages for the Thunder and Clippers
58-32 Advantage in points in the paint for Thunder on the night
Nov. 21st, 2013
Hustling out to shooters and clogging the paint helped the Thunder force seven straight missed shots to start the game, and with that defensive intensity, it never looked back.
In a 105-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, the Thunder’s hard-nosed brand of defense was there from the opening minutes and it didn’t relent for the entire four quarters. The wire-to-wire win featured 51.9 percent shooting by the Thunder on offense and a defensive effort that held the high scoring Clippers to just 41.3 percent from the field.
Led by Kevin Durant’s 28 points, the Thunder was smooth on the offensive end, but it was only because it set the tone defensively that it was able to sustain such a high level of play throughout the night.
“I like the way we came out,” Durant said. “We started the game well defensively and it kind of helped us on offense. Guys just came out and played hard.”
“That’s probably as well as we can execute a game plan and execute on both ends of the floor on offense and defense in the second half,” Brooks said.
Aside from a hot-shooting, up-tempo third quarter for both teams, the Thunder held the Clippers to less than 22 points in each of the other three periods, including a combined 17-for-49 shooting in the second and fourth quarters. With seven blocked shots and seven steals the Thunder used its length and athleticism to continually frustrated the Clippers.
In the meantime, Brooks’ club was also dominating the lane, beating the Clippers in points in the paint by a margin of 58-32 and by out-rebounding the Clippers by eight. It was a four quarter effort for the Thunder, and a positive step forward as the team looks for consistency each night.
“We were just able to sustain their runs and play our brand of basketball from start to finish,” guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “We didn’t get away from the game plan. It worked for us from start to finish and the energy was there.”
The defense was sound, and the offense was crisp. In the second half, the Thunder racked up 17 assists to just five turnovers, with Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook leading the way for the Thunder. Their combined 13 assists for the game resulted in excellent spacing, player movement and ball movement.
With the Thunder leading by 11 with just 4:08 remaining, Westbrook called out a set, letting his teammates know to run it “all the way through”. What resulted was a possession that featured five passes and an easy Westbrook drop off pass to Durant for a slam dunk. It was a perfectly executed offensive set, serving as an exclamation point to the Thunder’s offensive prowess on the night.
“Guys were making better passes,” Westbrook said. “It shows good execution and it shows growth.”
“Our down the stretch execution was the best it’s been this year,” Durant said. “Everybody was moving, everybody was touching the ball and everybody felt involved.”
Durant’s point about this one being a full team effort is well taken. The bench chipped in 35 points led by Jeremy Lamb’s 11 and Reggie Jackson’s nine, while eight different players managed to grab four-or-more rebounds. As the Thunder moves forward in this long 82-game season, with its sights set on playing its best ball at the end of the year, it will need the contributions of all 14 men on the roster to build a deep, flexible roster.
The signs are positive thus far, and with a solid group of experienced players mixed in with young guys, the Thunder feels sure that there will be more nights this season that feature full-team efforts as well.
“It’s important that our guys come in and feel confident with how we play,” Brooks explained. “I thought our starters did a good job of setting the tone, coming in with the proper mindset and with great energy. Our second unit did a great job of coming in, and I think they increased the lead by five or six points.” “I have confidence and our team has confidence in our guys,” Brooks continued. “No matter who we throw out there they have to play hard and for their team, and we’ll live with the results.”
The Clippers never led in this one, and in fact, the Thunder’s lead never dipped below five points after the game’s opening three minutes. However, the Thunder did slam the door on any potential Clippers comeback mid-way through the fourth quarter, when it turned an 86-79 lead with 9:07 remaining into a 95-81 edge with 6:43 left in the contest.
That 7-0 burst came after a timeout by Coach Brooks, and the Thunder executed immediately out of the huddle with a Jeremy Lamb jumper off a curl, with the set-up pass coming from Kevin Durant. After forcing a long missed two-point jumper, Reggie Jackson created in the lane to hit a floater. The Clippers called timeout, but Derek Fisher made a steal and fed Lamb with a slick bounce pass for a dunk in transition. One Jackson free throw later and the Thunder’s lead was 14 and the Clippers never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong box outs on consecutive possessions by Serge Ibaka to protect the defensive glass. Great hustle by Kevin Durant to dive on the floor for a loose ball. Alert job of boxing out by Steven Adams as he recovered back off a pick-and-roll. Perfect pitch-ahead pass by Durant to Russell Westbrook in the fast break to create a layup. Nice work by Adams to tip out an offensive rebound and create another possession for the Thunder. Slick play call by Coach Brooks to get a give-and-go from Collison to Lamb.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Even though it rattled out, the Thunder made four passes in one possession to get Thabo Sefolosha open for a three-pointer. Westbrook flies high to contest an alley-oop try, causing a miss and a Thunder transition opportunity. Another nice play call by Brooks to get Ibaka open for an elbow jump shot. Unselfishness from Lamb to hit Ibaka with the extra pass for a knockdown jumper. Incredible patience by Nick Collison to pump fake and let two defenders go up before he finish with the foul. Westbrook calls out a play and then executes it to a tee.
“Tonight we got out to a great start. We had to get back to what we do… We’re just trying to get better every day. It’s the 11th game in the season, so each day we’re trying to grow individually, we’re trying to teach our young guys and I think we’re getting better.” – center Kendrick Perkins