CLIPPERS 125
THUNDER 117
5 Players who scored in double figures for the Thunder on the night, including ten from Thabo Sefolosha

5-for-7 Three-point shooting numbers for Derek Fisher, who racked up 15 points by hitting his first five three’s

6 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 13 points, five rebounds and a steal

10-for-16 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who scored 20 poitns and added six rebounds and two blocks

16-9 The Thunder’s advantage in second chance points

31-9 The Thunder’s edge in bench points, including seven from Reggie Jackson, five from Nick Collison and four from Jeremy Lamb

42 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to 10 assists, three rebounds and two steals

48-36 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, where it held Los Angeles to just 26 shot attempts

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Feb. 23rd, 2014
RECAP:

Scratching and clawing all the way back from a 15-point third quarter deficit got the Thunder back on top, but it wasn’t enough to stave off a hot-shooting Los Angeles Clippers bunch.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club fell 125-117 to the Clippers on Sunday afternoon in a game that was an offensive showcase but lacked the typical defensive verve a Thunder game typically displays. The Clippers shot 51.9 percent from the field as the combination of Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes teamed up to score 50 points on 11-for-18 three-point shooting.

While the Thunder’s offensive firepower came from Kevin Durant’s 42 points and ten assists, along with 20 points on 10-for-16 shooting by Serge Ibaka, its defense wasn’t quite there the way it normally has been throughout the year. The Clippers got out into transition for 34 fast break points and out-rebounded Brooks’ club by seven, two deciding factors on the afternoon. While Thunder players understand they can improve and play its brand of defense, they also tipped their cap to the Clippers’ perimeter shooting, as they scored 125 points while only attempting 26 shots inside the paint.

“All of us know we need to sacrifice our bodies a little bit more,” Sefolosha said. “They were difficult to defend today. They made some big shots.”

Trailing 95-80 with just 2:14 left in the third quarter, the Thunder was in a tight spot, but a furious charge to end the quarter and start the fourth period resulted in an 18-4 run that cut the Clippers lead to just one point. During that stretch the Thunder’s defense forced five missed shots and two turnovers, while the offense scored on five straight possessions to end the third quarter, then got a big three-pointer and two free throws to pull within one. From there on out, it was anyone’s game.

“We had defenders on the court and everybody was defending at a high level,” Durant said. “We were passing the basketball and making shots.”

The sparkplug for the Thunder run that erased the big deficit was Derek Fisher, who sank three of his five three-pointers during the burst. Fisher’s shot-making led to 15 points for the veteran, whose steadying influence has been an integral part of the team’s success on and off the floor. Regardless of time and score, Fisher’s poise ensures that he approaches every possession with the same intensity and focus. That dedication to the team, especially on defense, is what impresses Brooks the most about Fisher’s impact on the team.

“He brings it every time,” Brooks said. “His toughness and want (to) is inspiring. He makes his guy struggle to score the basketball and that’s what we need to have all our players do. We have been doing it quite a bit but have to get back to doing it soon.”

The Thunder will have two more practice days before its next chance to hit the game floor, with four more games left on this long home stand. At the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, the team will get back to work on executing its core defensive principles. Despite the performance on Sunday, the Thunder knows it has the ability to be one of the best defensive units in basketball. It will just come down to communication, commitment and execution, something it hopes to continue building towards this spring.

“It’s being committed on that end of the floor no matter what is happening in the game,” Fisher said. “No matter what the situation is, it’s mentally deciding you’re going to focus on that end of the floor.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder finally took a three-point lead at 115-112 with 2:43 remaining on a Kevin Durant three-pointer off a pass from Russell Westbrook, but the Clippers ended the game on a 13-2 run, erasing the Thunder’s comeback. A pair of free throws each from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin started the run, then after two Durant missed free throws, Jamal Crawford hit a difficult three-pointer.

A Durant driving layup cut the Clippers lead to two with just 57.5 seconds left, but Crawford hit a jumper from 18-feet with 39.9 seconds left to put Los Angeles up 121-117. Four straight missed shots by the Thunder and four Clippers free throws iced the game.

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

Thabo Sefolosha stays alert in transition defense to pick off an outlet pass to regain possession for the Thunder. ­Strong interior defense by Serge Ibaka forces Blake Griffin into a travel. Beautiful ball movement by the Thunder to get a wide open corner three for Thabo Sefolosha. Perfect backdoor bounce pass from Nick Collison to Kevin Durant sets open an easy dunk. Collison hustles to tip the ball back in bounds to regain possession. Slick passing in the lane between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant creates an open dunk for Serge Ibaka.

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

Westbrook explodes into the passing lane and makes a steal before unselfishly dropping off a pass to Durant for a fast break jam. Nice vision by Durant to see the best possible pass out of the double team. Perfectly timed dive to the rim by Sefolosha to create an easy drop-off passing lane for Durant. Incredible hustle by Durant to get back in transition and make a strong foul to prevent an easy bucket. Strong defensive rebound by Sefolosha in the lane by battling with a much bigger man for position. Steven Adams scratches and claws in the lane to try to get to an offensive board, eventually knocking the ball out of bounds off a Clipper. Collison steps up and draws an offensive foul.



“We have to get back to playing defensive basketball. We are a very good defensive team, but we didn’t play like that tonight.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks

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