THUNDER 107
CLIPPERS 101
4 Blocks for Serge Ibaka, who also had 15 points and seven rebounds

8 Steals for the Thunder on the night, compared to just eight turnovers

10-for-11 Free throw shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who finished with 27 points

11 Rebounds for Russell Westbrook, including three on the offensive end

22-9 The Thunder’s advantage in points off turnovers on the night

26 Bench points for the Thunder, led by nine from Reggie Jackson and seven from Steven Adams

30 Points for Russell Westbrook in addition to six assists and two steals

41.9 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Clippers to on the night

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
April 9th, 2014
RECAP:

LOS ANGELES – The will to win is a force that can overpower skill, scheme and technique. For the Thunder, it’s a must every night.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club showed that deep desire to be at its best on every possession on Wednesday night in a 107-101 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The communication on defense was consistent on every play, the Thunder moved the ball on offense and turned its defensive stops into transition opportunities. On the evening, the Thunder held the Clippers to just 41.9 percent shooting, including 8-for-27 from three-point range, while forcing Los Angeles into 17 turnovers that resulted in 22 points.

“We‘re an aggressive team and we‘re a very good team when we play aggressive defensive basketball and look to score off of our defense,” Brooks said. “I thought tonight was a good example, and everybody chipped in. Everybody made big plays on both ends of the floor.”

The full team effort was aided by the fact that the Thunder had its normal starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins for just the second time since Christmas Day. The intensity was palpable from the start and at the beginning of the third quarter, when the Thunder jumped out to a 14-4 run to eventually build a 17-point lead. The Clippers would battle back, but the Thunder slammed the door by making emphatic scoring plays like a Westbrook put-back dunk and a Durant step-back three-pointer.

Perhaps more important than those buckets were the extra-effort plays that characterized the Thunder’s effort all night, but particularly in the closing minutes. Westbrook, who finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, perfectly timed the carom off a Durant miss to slam the ball home, then snagged another offensive rebound in traffic with just seconds remaining to seal the win.

“To win a big game, you‘ve got to do little things,” Westbrook said. “It‘s not always going to be a big shot, or maybe a big steal, rebound; big block, big box out. You are never going to know what you‘ll need to do, but we did all of those things tonight.”‖

“(Westbrook) has the heart of a champion,” Brooks said. “He attacks the game the way it should be attacked. He’s an aggressive player defensively and offensively. He’s one of the best in the league at leading his team. He did a good job tonight.”

Joining Westbrook in taking care of the details were Nick Collison, Sefolosha and Durant who dove on the floor multiple times for loose balls. Ibaka was also crucial for the Thunder down the stretch, running hard into screens to get the Thunder’s offense flowing, then closing out strong to the corner to block a JJ Redick three-point attempt with just seconds remaining, ending the game. Ibaka finished with four blocks, the Thunder made eight steals and Durant and Ibaka combined for 42 points, rounding out a full team effort.

“We just simply played hard,” Durant said. “There are no schemes, no techniques; we just made the championship type of play, which is rebound the basketball. Serge [Ibaka] contested the shot. That‘s what wins you games; and where we‘re trying to go, that‘s what you have to do to win big games. Those guys, it seems like they‘re always in the right spots at the right times late in the games and made big plays for us.”‖

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder’s lead was trimmed to 102-100 with just 1:08 remaining, and the team knew it had to convert on offense and get stops on defense to close the game out. Coming out of a timeout, Kevin Durant drove right and got fouled as he put up a free-thr0w line jumper, then he proceeded to knock down both free throws. On the other end of the floor, a strong defensive possession ended in a foul, and Chris Paul hit one of two free throw attempts.

The Thunder then called timeout and drew up a great play, as Serge Ibaka faked a screen at the top of the key for Russell Westbrook, then hustled to the corner to free up Durant with a screen. Westbrook hit Durant with a pass, who then found Ibaka in the corner for a jumper. The ball rimmed out, but Westbrook was on the weakside and pulled down a ferocious offensive rebound. He sunk one-of-two free throws, then Ibaka blocked the Clippers’ final three-point attempt to seal the win.

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

Strong post defense by Serge Ibaka to force Blake Griffin into a difficult missed shot, then Ibaka tips away a defensive rebound to Perkins. Nick Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball to force a jump ball. Expert communication by Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook in transition to stay in front of their men. Westbrook makes a leaping steal off an in-bounds pass and saves it back inbounds. Steven Adams keeps the ball high on the catch in the paint and draws a foul. Nice trap in the corner by Adams and Jackson to force a turnover.

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

Nice job by Westbrook to hold his ground in the post, making the Clippers’ passes difficult and forcing a turnover. Solid man-to-man defense by Ibaka to force Griffin into a difficult missed fade-away jumper. Incredible hustle by Durant and Sefolosha to dive on the floor and corral a loose ball. Incredible one-handed pass by Westbrook to Durant, who then found Sefolosha in the corner for a three. Perfect defense for 24 seconds forces the Clippers into a shot clock violation. Fisher bodies up Glen Davis for an entire possession.



“Our defense did a good job. That’s our identity. We’ve always been a defensive team that can score. I like the fact that we battled back. We battled through some tough times during tonight’s game. Our energy was good and our defensive mentality was good.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks

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