11 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 14 points and nine rebounds
15 Combined steals and blocks for the Thunder on the night, led by four steals by Russell Westbrook
30 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to ten rebounds and five assists
32 Points for the Thunder’s bench, including 24 combined for Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb
35.6 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Hawks to on the night
38-28 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder, where it held Atlanta to 14-for-35 shooting
54-45 Rebounding edge for the Thunder, including a 16-7 advantage for the bench
Dec. 10th, 2013
ATLANTA – Like a boxing match, scoring punches in NBA games come in all varieties – haymakers, jabs and in waves. The key is to be mature enough to withstand all of types, then make strategic counter-punches.
In Tuesday night’s 101-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team did exactly that, parrying every Atlanta burst with a run of its own to continually keep the Hawks at bay.
Twice in the fourth quarter the Thunder’s double-digit deficit was cut to three, but the Thunder responded with a 10-0 flurry and then a 6-0 burst to end the game, highlighted by an acrobatic lefty reverse layup by Russell Westbrook and four Kevin Durant free throws to seal the win on offense, along with four straight defensive stops on defense over the final two minutes.
“We always tell each other, ‘weather the storm’, no matter what,” Durant said. “If they close the lead or if we’re down 20, we just weather the storm, keep working and keep pressing.”
“We took it a possession at a time and when they cut it to three, we were able to just settle down, get stops and make shots as well,” Durant explained.
Throughout the night, it was the Thunder’s defense that Brooks’ squad relied upon, as Atlanta never shot better than 40 percent from the field in any quarter and finished the night with a 35.6 percent mark. The consistency with which the Thunder brought its defense manifested itself on all levels, as the Thunder dominated in the paint, holding Atlanta to just 28 points on 14-for-35 shooting, while also making eight steals and seven blocks.
The most remarkable aspect of the Thunder’s defensive clout was the team’s ability to maintain focus despite shots not falling at its normal rate on its own end early in the game.
“You’re going to have nights where you don’t make shots, but you can’t have nights where you don’t play defense,” Westbrook explained.
The Thunder did start to get things clicking on offense over the final three quarters, as the team racked up 27 assists thanks to precise player movement and passing. Kevin Durant led the way with 30 points, ten rebounds and five assists, and was joined in the double-double club by Serge Ibaka (19 points and 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (14 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds).
Off the bench, the Thunder also got a big lift thanks to the creating and playmaking of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, who pitched in to provide 24 of the Thunder’s 32 points from reserves. While shots began to fall as the night went along, the Thunder credited the offense’s success to executing at a high level at all five positions.
“It was spacing,” Westbrook said. “Over the last week or so, we’ve been doing a good job of just spacing out, hitting guys where they can make shots and everybody is shooting the ball confidently.”
The Thunder led 78-75 with 10:19 left in the fourth quarter, after the Hawks had charged back from a 15-point Thunder lead. Head Coach Scott Brooks called a timeout, and immediately out of the huddle, the Thunder went on a methodical 10-0 run to build its lead to 88-75 with 6:47 remaining, keeping the Hawks at arms’ reach. It started with a well-executed play to get Nick Collison a dunk off a Serge Ibaka pass, then Ibaka hit a free throw and made a 20-foot jumper. Kevin Durant added a free throw, Ibaka hit another jumper and then Durant capped the run with a slam dunk in transition thanks to a drop off pass from Russell Westbrook.
“When we went on that run we matched their intensity,” Durant said. “We were able to take that punch and give a bigger punch back on the defensive end. Offensively we were moving the ball and finding good shots.”
Defense defined the run, however, as the Thunder forced five straight missed shots, a turnover and two Atlanta timeouts during the stretch.
“In that run (Durant) had a couple of blocks and a steal and we got some scores in transition,” Brooks said. “We’re at our best when we defend, contest shots, rebound and run.”
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Russell Westbrook stays active on defense chasing his man around a screen by keeping his feet moving and hands in the passing lanes. Andre Roberson hustles out to the three-point line to block a three-point attempt. Smart foul by Kendrick Perkins in transition to stop a Hawks fast break. Slick passing by Westbrook and Kevin Durant to hit Jeremy Lamb and Nick Collison with looks at the rim. Lamb and Ibaka keep active hands in the lane to slap the ball away in the defensive shell.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Excellent post defense by Ibaka thwarts a shot at the rim and forces an ugly miss. Wonderful work by Andre Roberson to chase his man around a screen and force a turnover. Roberson attacks the offensive boards with energy to clean up a missed shot and put it back in. Westbrook hustles back in transition to save a sure dunk. Durant smartly tips a defensive rebound to Westbrook to start a fast break. Great timing and positioning by Collison to draw a charge in the lane. Beautiful triangle passing by Durant and Ibaka to get Collison a wide open dunk.
“Our defense was good throughout the game and really helped in that stretch at the end. Our defense put us in good position and then in the second half we started to hit some shots.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks