4 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka to go with 11 points and nine rebounds
12-4 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points
20-10 The Thunder’s edge in bench points on the night, led by Jeremy Lamb’s nine points
21 Combined rebounds for Steven Adams (9), Jeremy Lamb (7) and Nick Collison (5)
21-15 Advantage in second chance points for the Thunder
31-19 The scoring total in the Thunder’s favor in the second quarter
37 Points for Kevin Durant on 15-for-28 shooting from the field
Jan. 14th, 2014
MEMPHIS – Kevin Durant attacked the heart of the Memphis Grizzlies’ defense, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Serge Ibaka alone in the corner. Without hesitation, he hit his trusty sharp-shooter and the Thunder had a chance to tie the game with a three. Ibaka’s shot just barely rimmed out, and the Thunder fell to Memphis 90-87 on the road, but Head Coach Scott Brooks and his team will take that same shot again every time.
“It was just read and react and coach (Brooks) drew up a pick-and-roll for me, so I split it,” Durant explained. “I saw that guy come off of Serge. He was wide open and I trust him 100 percent. The shot looked good, it just hit the side rim and it rimmed out. That’s the shot we need him to take. His confidence is going to be up the next time he shoots it.”
“That’s one thing I love about KD,” Brooks said. “He makes the right play. He can force a shot, but that wasn’t the right play. Serge was wide open. He works on that every day and has made that shot for us.”
Durant’s unselfishness as a playmaker was combined with his dazzling array of scoring moves, as he racked up a game-high 37 points on 15-for-28 shooting from the field to go with four assists and four rebounds. In the fourth quarter, Durant scored on three straight possessions for the Thunder, using his physicality, length and shooting accuracy to score from all over the floor.
In the closing moments when he was doubled and even triple teamed, Durant repeatedly managed to fire away a pass to the right teammate. Unfortunately for the Thunder, it didn’t get enough shots to fall throughout the night, as the team shot just 40.7 percent from the field, including 5-for-21 from three-point land.
“We had a lot of good open looks,” Brooks said. “We’re going to have to step up and make some shots. I believe in all of our guys taking them. They’re not shots that are forced. They aren’t shots that are out of their rhythm. We just have to keep believing in them and passing to each other.”
For as stingy as the Grizzlies’ defense was against the Thunder, Brooks’ club was just as effective at keeping its opponent from scoring. The Thunder held Memphis to just 40 percent shooting, won the rebounding battle by allowing only three offensive rebounds over the final three quarters and also beat the Grizzlies in second chance points and fast break points.
After the game, however, Brooks picked out the one area it could have been better in, which was locking in on Memphis’ Courtney Lee, who went for a team-high 24 points after starting 3-for-3 from the field. Aside from that one area, the Thunder had a chance to win the game in a tough road environment, and the late-game experience will be valuable down the road as this group continues to mature and develop together.
“It was a well-played game,” Brooks said. “They’re a tough, physical team and we are too. It could have gone either way with a bounce here or a bounce there. We had a lot of good looks from the three. We have to step up and continue to put ourselves in a position to make those shots. Our defense was good other than we let one guy get loose on us.”
For young players like Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb, in addition to veterans like Durant and Ibaka, moments like these in many ways mimic a playoff environment and style of play. As the calendar creeps towards April, chances for everyone on the roster to test out and work through executing the gameplan in moments where game pressure is at its highest.
While there is always room for improvement, there were good early returns from Reggie Jackson, who had 17 points by starting 6-for-10 from the field, and Steven Adams, whose physicality and toughness changed the flow and mood of the game as he racked up nine rebounds.
“Reggie and that second unit was very aggressive in giving us that little lead,” Durant said. “Steven did a great job of being active and offensive rebounding. We have to start the game off better.”
The Thunder trailed 24-12 with 46.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but got back into the game with a run to end the period and start the second quarter. The burst started with a Jeremy Lamb layup off of a Kevin Durant pass, then Durant knocked in two free throws to make it 24-16 at the end of the first quarter.
Out of the break, Lamb knocked home two free throws, Reggie Jackson scored on a layup and jumper on back-to-back possessions and then Nick Collison tied the game with two free throws before Reggie Jackson’s three-pointer put the Thunder up by two points at 27-25. During the 15-1 run, the Thunder’s defense forced Memphis into six missed shots and four turnovers, and the rest of the game was played within a seven-point window.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Nice out-of-bounds play to get a drive-and-dish from Kevin Durant to Reggie Jackson for a three-pointer. Thabo Sefolosha does a great job of harassing Mike Conley out top and forcing him to call a timeout. Ibaka gets strong position and draws a push-in-the-back foul while boxing out. Steven Adams fights to grab three rebounds in a row, creating extra Thunder possessions. Adams then bothers Marc Gasol in the post to force a Grizzlies turnover. Excellent bounce pass from Durant to Adams to get behind the defense.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Adams clears out space in the lane, giving Ibaka a chance to get around his man and to the rim. Adams’ quick hands help force a loose ball and get Durant out into transition. Adams sets a screen out high for Durant, who wiggles into the lane and knocks down a jumper. Pretty backdoor bounce pass by Collison to get Durant a dunk. Strong box out by Collison leads to a Jackson assist to a streaking Jeremy Lamb in transition.
“We had a chance to win the basketball game. Our shot wasn’t falling but we stuck with it on defense and were able to give ourselves a chance there at the end.” – forward Kevin Durant