Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs. Grizzlies

GRIZZLIES 107
THUNDER 113
3 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka, who also had 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and nine rebounds

6 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting and two rebounds

10 Steals for the Thunder on the night, including three by Russell Westbrook and two each from Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson

16:39 Minutes played for Hasheem Thabeet, who stepped in and scored two points, grabbed four rebounds, made a steal and blocked a shot

27-for-32 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 10-for-10 from Kevin Durant

30 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 14 from Reggie Jackson and boosted by eight from Derek Fisher

37 Points for Kevin Durant, including 30 in the second half, in addition to six rebounds and five assists

49.4 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the night, including 10-for-22 from the three-point line

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Feb. 28th, 2014
RECAP:

The game pressure was immense and the adversity staggering. But when it came down to winning time, the Thunder got the stops and buckets it needed to prevail.

After building a 19-point lead, the Thunder was challenged by the Memphis Grizzlies in the closing minutes on Friday night, but over the final two minutes Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club slammed the door by playing strong on both ends of the floor. A crucial 4-0 burst that consisted of two tough defensive stands by all five Thunder men on the floor then offensive precision by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant resulted in two buckets, propelling the Thunder to a 113-107 victory.

“We executed down the stretch the last couple minutes of the basketball game,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “We got good looks. I thought Russell managed that part of the game. Things were going a little sideways at that point. I thought he did a great job of settling us down, getting to some of our plays that we like to run. KD did a great job of setting screens and getting open and Russell delivered.”

After playing stout defense in the first half, holding Memphis to just 42 points on 37.5 percent shooting, the Thunder needed its offense to click in the second half to come away with a win. Durant scored 30 of his 37 points after halftime, shooting 10-for-15 over the final two periods. In the closing two minutes, Durant and Westbrook combined on to create two jumpers on the right side of the floor out of the side pick-and-roll, with Durant as the screener. Thanks to the Thunder’s five-man execution on offense and Durant’s shot-making ability, the Thunder got the points it needed down the stretch to keep Memphis at bay.

“I just told myself to be aggressive, to score,” Durant said. “I think that’s what my team needed. Russell made some great passes for me. My teammates set me up with great screenings and I just tried to finish.”

With the Thunder up by just three with under two minutes to go, Westbrook hit Durant for the second of his buckets in the side pick-and-roll, but the next possession, Durant’s three-point attempt missed and bounced off the rim. Waiting near the basket, Serge Ibaka made the play of the game, hustling down the sideline and barely saving the ball in-bounds back to Durant, creating an extra Thunder possession with less than a minute to go.

Ibaka’s save led to a Durant driving jumper, which put the Thunder up by seven points and effectively ended the game. Along with Ibaka, other Thunder bigs like Steven Adams, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet, who played 17 minutes despite not seeing much time in the rotation recently, kept Memphis’ bigs in check, holding zach Randolph to 4-for-14 shooting and Marc Gasol to just three rebounds.

“I think Serge played with a lot of toughness tonight, as well as Steve and Nick. Hasheem was great tonight too. I’m proud of him. We were clicking…They (Memphis) hit some shots on us, but we just kept fighting and we got a good win.”

“That gave us a big lift,” Westbrook echoed. “I think our bigs did a tremendous job on their bigs. Nick, Serge, Hash and Perry did a great job with getting physical and going all night long.”

Overall, the Thunder is thrilled to come away victorious against a tough team on Friday night, but knows that moving forward it must combine the first half’s defense with the offensive game it played throughout the night. By being unselfish on the offensive end the Thunder created open looks that amounted to 49.4 percent shooting, including 10-for-22 shooting from the three-point line, but on defense it knows it still has work to do in order to maintain the defense it played in the first half for an entire 48 minutes.

“I’m happy that we got the win and it’s a step in the right direction, but we’ve still have some work to do,” Brooks said. “We’ve never been afraid of work after a win. We’re going to come back tomorrow and figure out ways to get better before we play on Sunday night.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder’s lead was cut to just three points at 105-102 with 2:29 remaining in the game, but after a timeout, Brooks’ club put the clamps down to seal a victory. Kevin Durant started the stretch by manning up defensively in the post against Marc Gasol, forcing a missed shot, then grabbing the rebound. On the ensuing offensive possession Westbrook hit Durant for a jumper in the short corner.

Westbrook then forced Nick Calathes into a tough missed three-pointer, Serge Ibaka grabbed the defensive board, then miraculously saved a Durant missed shot back in bounds, giving the Thunder an extra possession with just 48.9 seconds remaining, up by five. Durant then weaved through the lane and hit a short jumper, giving the Thunder a 109-102 lead with 33.3 seconds remaining. Although it was just a 4-0 run, it was the Thunder at its best on both ends of the floor.

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

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant set the tone on defense by making a steal and blocking a shot on the game’s first two possessions. Serge Ibaka pressures Marc Gasol out top, making his entry pass difficult, resulting in a Memphis turnover. Great on-ball pressure by Westbrook forces Memphis into a turnover. Reggie Jackson tips a defensive rebound to a teammate to finish off a defensive possession. Great rotations as a team on defense forces Memphis into a shot clock violation.

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

Perfect spacing by the Thunder creates a passing lane for Durant to swing one across the court to Perry Jones for a three-pointer. Quick hands by Jones to slap the ball way from the Grizzlies underneath the basket. Jones does a great job of fighting through screens to stay in front of a much smaller man, helping the Thunder force a shot clock violation. Strong post defense by Durant to stay with his man to force a missed shot. Ibaka makes an incredible hustle play to save the ball in bounds and get it to Durant for an extra possession.



“I thought we went in the right direction tonight. Defensively, that first half was probably as good as we’ve played most of the season.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks

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