8 Assists for Kevin Durant in addition to eight rebounds, a steal and a block
12 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, who also scored 21 points on 10-for-17 shooting
17-10 The Thunder’s advantage in second chance points on the night
31 Points for Kevin Durant on the night on 11-for-21 shooting
31-18 The Thunder’s scoring edge in the second quarter, when it went on a 20-4 run
39.5 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Grizzlies to, including 2-for-16 from the three-point line
44-35 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the night, including eight from Kendrick Perkins
Feb. 3rd, 2014
In crunch time, the Thunder needed a bucket. Typically a spot where Kevin Durant excels as a shot-maker, the Thunder leader made a play with his ball-handling and passing instead.
A drive into the lane drew extra defenders, so Durant simply made the correct play, zipping the ball into the corner for Serge Ibaka. A help defender raced over, so Ibaka made the smart pass, whipping the ball up the wing to Thabo Sefolosha, who stood all alone, without a defender within ten feet. Just like that, the Thunder had three points and an eight point lead with 3:19 remaining, a big enough margin for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club to grind out an 86-77 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
“That was probably our best play of the second half,” Brooks said.
“We missed some easier ones early on, so it felt good and gave us a boost when (Sefolosha) hit that shot,” Durant explained. “He had been playing hard all game and to knock that in was a big play for us.”
Durant’s playmaking created Sefolosha’s crucial bucket, but was also evident throughout the night as he sliced his way through the defense and evaded double-teams with the pass for all 40 minutes he was on the floor. Finishing with 31 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, Durant impacted the game on all levels and got teammates involved. The biggest beneficiary was Ibaka, who knocked down 10-of-17 shots for 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Ibaka didn’t just make an impact on offense, however, he was a catalyst for the Thunder’s defensive efforts as well as he battled Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint in the entire night. His teammates Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Steven Adams all contributed on that end as well, holding Memphis to just 39.5 percent shooting and the Grizzlies two interior stars to a combined 26 points on 26 shot attempts.
“Our bigs were really good,” Durant said. “We started the game off great defensively then we built off of that. Offensively we played a little slow, but we picked it up in the second quarter and built some momentum going into the second half. You have to credit Serge, Perk, Nick and Steven for going out there, playing hard and forcing those guys into tough shots.”
For Head Coach Scott Brooks, it was further confirmation of his team’s flexibility and the depth within the roster. In the NBA, throughout the course of 82 nights in the regular season, playing one style of basketball won’t always lead you to a win. In order to be truly successful, a team has to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and still be effective in the core tenets of the game – defense, sharing the basketball and executing with precision on both ends.
Tonight the Thunder played big, using forwards and centers like Ibaka, Perkins, Adams and Collison to fight in the trenches for inches of space in the paint. All of that effort yielded a 44-35 edge on the boards, a 17-10 advantage in second chance points and the most important stat of all, more points on the scoreboard when the buzzer struck zero.
“We did a good job of playing tough defensive basketball throughout the game,” Brooks said. “One of the strengths of our team, obviously, is our versatility. Tonight it was shown that sometimes you have to play different styles of basketball to get a win.”
The energy of the game changed over the final six minutes of the second quarter, as the Thunder turned a 32-31 deficit into a 51-36 lead heading into halftime. The Thunder’s defense held Memphis without a field goal for the final 6:27 of the half, using its continued stops to get out and play with pace on offense. The burst started on a reverse layup by Reggie Jackson after Kevin Durant hit him with a pass, then Durant splashed a free throw before Jackson pulled up in transition for a jumper.
Thabo Sefolosha hit two-out-of-three free throws, Serge Ibaka hit a jumper from Durant, who then nailed a three-pointer to give the Thunder a 43-33 edge. Ibaka tipped in a miss on the next possession, then Durant added two free throws and two driving layups to round out the run. During the stretch, the Thunder forced Memphis into nine consecutive missed shots along with three turnovers.
“We want to play with some pace and get some things moving,” Durant said. “That’s what we did in that second quarter.”
“We played a little faster,” Brooks said. “The last six minutes or so, that was the first time and probably the only time tonight that we played our basketball style of stops and run, get a good shot on offense.”
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Thabo Sefolosha keeps his hands active and slaps away the ball for a steal on the Grizzlies’ first offensive possession. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant communicate just with their eyes to set up a pick-and-pop for an easy jumper. Durant hustles all over the floor to contest at the elbow and then out in the corner, forcing a pass then a miss. Durant hustles back and somehow blocks a sure layup at the rim, then saves the ball inbounds. Perry Jones manufactures two free throws by recognizing he was being guarded by a much smaller player, then posting him up.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Great job by Ibaka to run the floor in transition and nice patience by Durant to wait to hit him with a pass until he cleared the defense. Sefolosha flies back into the corner to slap away a pass intended for a shooter. Jones dives on the floor for a loose ball and dishes it out to a teammate to regain possession. Collison slaps a loose defensive rebound backwards to a teammate to start a fast break. Durant tips a loose rebound to himself, leading to a transition opportunity. Incredible ball movement from Durant and Ibaka leads to a wide open Sefolosha three, then straight up post defense from Perkins forces an errant pass and a Thunder layup.
“On the road, we won small. Tonight, we did a good job of winning big. When you play teams in this league, you have to be able to play different ways. That was very clear tonight. We can play different styles of basketball and still come away with a win.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks