9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also scored 27 points and snagged six rebounds
18 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to six rebounds and three assists
19 Fast break points for the Thunder, all of which came in the first three quarters
21 Points off turnovers for the Thunder, all of which came in the first three quarters
42-33 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, who had six players grab four-or-more rebounds
52 Bench points for the Thunder, led by a career-high 18 from Jeremy Lamb in addition to 17 from Reggie Jackson
56.3-42.0 Differential in shooting percentages in the Thunder’s favor
Dec. 11th, 2013
MEMPHIS – Kevin Durant found himself facing three charging Memphis Grizzlies while defending a three-on-one fast break. No matter, he thwarted them all long enough for his teammates to recover and get yet another defensive stop.
The ever-improving and consistent Thunder defense was again on display in Memphis in a 116-100 victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. It was a tight contest through one quarter but Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team broke it open in the second frame with a 15-3 run to end the half thanks to stout defense and electric offense. Durant’s three-on-one breakup epitomized the team victory and gave the Thunder a standard for effort to shoot for on every possession.
“We look at plays like that all the time,” Brooks said. “Those are the plays that inspire your team and that’s what you want to do as a teammate. You never want to give up on your teammates, and those are the things – you chase a loose ball down, you dive on the floor, you don’t concede a layup, you challenge all passes, all shots. We’re a good defensive team and we’ve done that for many years.” “I just wanted to contest,” Durant explained. “Luckily they missed the shot and I bothered them just a little bit and my teammates were on their way back to get the rebound. That was a big stop for us and it was one of those things that ignites your team. All of us were doing little plays like that every single possession.”
Plays like Durant’s bucket-saving stop were commonplace tonight for the Thunder, and have been growing in frequency as the season has progressed. Whether it was rookie Andre Roberson chasing his man around screens, Serge Ibaka denying shots at the rim or the Thunder using its collective length to force the Grizzlies into bad offensive possessions, the intensity and focus was there all night. By playing within its defensive shell, the Thunder’s defense forced 15 turnovers that it turned into 21 points, giving a Thunder squad that has no problem creating offense even simpler chances at the rim as Brooks’ squad racked up 19 fast break points.
“We put our mind set every time we set out on defense first and on the team first,” Durant said. “That’s what we have been doing. We have putting everything aside. We put our individual stats, shots, rebounds, and assists aside. We are grinding our system offensively and defensively. We have to just keep it up. We just have to have that mindset where we can’t let anything distract us from what we want to do in the game.”
The ringleader for the Thunder’s energy tonight was Russell Westbrook, who seemed to be bursting at the seams to help his team try to win each and every possession. In just 27 minutes, the Thunder All-Pro point guard racked up 27 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two steals, while shooting 7-for-12 from the field and 11-for-11 from the free throw line. It was his passion on both ends of the floor that ignited his team, who played with both activity and discipline throughout the night.
“He’s one of the leaders of our team, not only on the court but off the court,” Brooks said. “He brings a great energy. He brings pure basketball. He wants to do the right thing. He’s been terrific… He sets the tone for us, and our guys do a great job of following his lead.”
The tenacity Westbrook helped cultivate carried over to the rest of the squad, and helped lift players into advantageous positions. The connections were there amongst all lineup combinations for the Thunder on offense, as Jeremy Lamb found his stroke from the perimeter, rattling off a career-high 18 points, including 16 in the second half, on 7-for-9 shooting and 3-for-4 from the three-point line.
The triumvirate of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka combined for 67 points, but their scoring was facilitated by the play of others on the court, like Kendrick Perkins who started off the game freeing up Durant for a wide-open three and hit Westbrook on backdoor cuts for layups twice in the third quarter. Plays like those are built off of mutual trust and years of continuity, giving the Thunder an extra instant of an advantage on each possession.
“We have eye contact,” Westbrook explained of his on-court connection with Perkins. “We’ve been with each other a few years now. We have eye contact and we know when to get those back doors.” “(Russell) sets it up really well and he has great hands,” Perkins said. “When we call the play, we already know that it’s coming. If it’s a small guard (on him), it’ll come extra high over the top and if it’s a taller guard maybe a bounce pass or it’ll be late. So he knows just to stay ready.”
The Thunder led by just three at 40-37 with 3:48 remaining in the first half, but over the final minutes of the second quarter, it jumped on Memphis with a 15-3 run and closed out the half with a ton of momentum. The burst started on the defensive end, where the Thunder forced five straight missed shots and caused Memphis to turn the ball over three times.
On offense, Russell Westbrook began the run with two free throws, then he assisted on four straight Thunder baskets – a Kevin Durant fast break dunk, a Nick Collison layup, an alley-oop to Durant and then a Serge Ibaka jumper. Collison hit another layup off of a nice Ibaka pass before Westbrook capped the run with a three-pointer, making it 55-40 with just 29.5 seconds remaining. The Grizzlies pulled within 13, but just before the halftime buzzer sounded, Perry Jones stayed with the play and tipped in a miss, giving the Thunder a 57-42 lead at the break.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Perfect back-screen set by Kendrick Perkins to free up Kevin Durant for three on the Thunder’s opening offensive possession. Russell Westbrook keeps his hands in the passing lane, deflecting a pass and disrupting a possession. Andre Roberson does a great job of running the wing and spots up for his first career three-point field goal. Durant single-handedly blows up a three-on-one fast break to save a sure layup. Nick Collison gets back in transition defense and draws a charge. Beautiful play call by Coach Brooks to get Jeremy Lamb an alley-oop from Reggie Jackson to start the second quarter.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice communication by Westbrook at the top of the key with Roberson to alert him to where the other players on the court were. Excellent vision by Perkins to find Westbrook on a backdoor cut for a layup plus the foul. Good hustle by Serge Ibaka to save a loose ball back in bounds to his teammate. Perkins calls out to Westbrook on a screen to help him get defensive position. Jeremy lamb hustles out to the baseline on a closeout, disrupting a possession and then it leads to the Thunder forcing a shot clock violation. Collison smartly re-establishes position in bounds before he saves the ball.
. I thought our defense was good all throughout the first half, then we moved the ball very well. Russell (Westbrook) had another outstanding floor game, led us both offensively and defensively. – Head Coach Scott Brooks