HAWKS 109
THUNDER 111
3 Steals for Thabo Sefolosha, part of eight total for the team

5 Assists for Nick Collison, who also scored eight points

6 Blocks for Serge Ibaka, a season-high, in addition to nine points

19-11 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night

32Combined points for Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb on 12-for-25 shooting

32-22 Scoring advantage for the Thunder in the fourth quarter tonight

41 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to five assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals

52.4 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the evening, including 13-for-25 shooting from three-point range

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Jan. 27th, 2013
RECAP:

Perseverance is in the Thunder’s DNA, and after getting rebuffed repeatedly for the first three-and-a-half quarters, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team’s resolve finally boosted it over the hump.

After trailing by as many as 14, the Thunder chipped away and kept challenging the Atlanta Hawks, finally pulling ahead for good when Kevin Durant hit a jumper on the right wing with 1.5 seconds remaining, giving the Thunder a thrilling 111-109 home victory. Durant’s heroics were set up by stellar play from the Thunder throughout the closing minutes.

Behind by three with just over three minutes to go, the Thunder went on a 5-0 run to take a two point lead at 109-107 when Durant went behind his back at the right elbow and hit a 16-foot jumper. The Hawks’ Paul Millsap scored to tie the ball game at 109, setting up Durant to take a final shot. Durant knew a double team was coming his way even before he caught the ball with just under 10 seconds left, so he immediately dribbled away from it to his right, attacking and shooting over two outstretched arms to deliver the Thunder its eighth-straight win.

“We were ready for that to happen and KD did a great job of beating that and putting his shoulder down, going right with his pull-up,” Brooks explained. “It was a great shot.”

“Coach just cleared it out for me and I had to make a play,” Durant said. “I saw the opening going to my right and I just wanted to be aggressive. I was going to pass but I saw I was in my spot and just had to pull up.”

The minutes preceding Durant’s 15th career game-winning basket in the final minute of play were characterized by incredible effort on both ends of the floor by the Thunder. Brooks’ squad forced four turnovers in the final five minutes, including one of the defining moments of the night.

After the Thunder decided to go with a smaller lineup of Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, Durant came over in help-side defense to block a Paul Millsap shot, forcing the Hawks into a shot clock violation. Despite playing far from a perfect game on the defensive end as the Hawks shot 48.9 percent from the field, the Thunder got the stops it needed late.

“They want to win every night and I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” Brooks said. “We bring it every night. It’s not going to be perfect like tonight when we kept chipping away. We hung in there… We did it together when it counted.”

“Late in that game Coach made a good adjustment and we stayed in front of the ball and switched some things,” Durant said. “They got it in the post a few times and helped our smalls out and we got some stops. We just wanted to get over that hump, and I think we made a few plays on the defensive end to do that.”

A catalyst for the Thunder on defense was Ibaka, who didn’t have a typical offensive night, but simply found the way that he could impact the game to help his team win. Ibaka registered four of his season-high six blocked shots in the second half, protecting the rim with his length, athleticism and instincts.

On a night where the Thunder had plenty of offense but needed an inspiration on the defensive end, Ibaka’s mentality shone through as a player who simply makes winning basketball plays, regardless of how or if they show up on the stat sheet.

“Nothing was going well on offense, but I just figured out a different way to help my team – on defense, blocking shots and with good screens,” Ibaka said. “When offense isn’t going well, I always get my mind ready to help my team. I’m proud of myself for that and for my teammates who have my back and keep believing in me.”

On the other end of the floor, the Thunder got help from all parts of the roster as six players scored eight-or-more points, including a combined 32 from Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. The Thunder shot 52.4 percent from the field on the night, including 13-for-25 from three-point range.

Leading the charge, of course, was Durant, who put together yet another incredible all-around night. With 41 points on 15-for-25 shooting, Durant extended his streak of games with 30-or-more points to 11, becoming one of only five players in the last 30 years to accomplish that feat. On top of that, Durant added five assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals, filling the entire stat sheet. Not just a scorer, Durant impacted the game on every single level, from the offensive and defensive ends and as a leader with his teammates.

“I’m just trying to inspire the team by my play, just playing hard, being emotional and hopefully it helps,” Durant said. “I’m not one of those guys who pre-determines anything. I just go off of how the game is played and the different schemes teams are throwing at me and being aggressive that way. I’m just enjoying it, having fun with it and having a day at a time.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder kept this one within striking distance throughout the night, but when the team got stops repeatedly in the closing minutes, it gave itself a chance to win. Trailing 103-96 with 5:38 remaining, the Thunder clamped down and forced four turnovers to complete its comeback. A quick 8-2 run brought the Thunder to within 105-104 with 4:18 remaining.

The burst started with a Derek Fisher three-pointer off a pass from Thabo Sefolosha, then a Kevin Durant steal led to two Reggie Jackson free throws. Jackson then hit a three-pointer to pull within one. After that, Durant scored seven straight points to close out the victory with his game-winner.

“At home, we’re very fortunate to have fans that stick with us no matter what,” Durant said. “They stuck with us and gave us a little push there in the fourth when we needed it. We just fed off of it. I’m proud of how we stuck through the adversity no matter what.”

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

Kevin Durant helps on the wing then slides over to contest a three-pointer and force a miss. Thabo Sefolosha slaps the ball out from his man’s hands from behind to disrupt a possession. Durant uses his length and quick hands to tip a ball, helping Kendrick Perkins make a steal. Steven Adams keeps his hands up in the passing lane to tip a ball that leads to a Thunder fast break. Nick Collison steps into the lane to take a charge. Durant chases Kyle Korver around screens for an entire possession, preventing him from getting a shot. Thunder team defense rotates and forces a shot clock violation.

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

Perkins and Sefolosha hustle to get a loose ball on the offensive end to give the Thunder another possession. Sefolosha keeps his hands ready, makes a steal then stays patient in transition to wait for the last minute to dish the ball to Durant. Nice defensive switch by Serge Ibaka to get out on a shooter and contest a shot. Sefolosha keeps his hand out in the passing lane and gets a fingertip on it to start a fast break. Perfect ball movement frees up Jeremy Lamb for a three-pointer. Collison slaps an offensive rebound back out to Durant who nails a three.



“Tonight was a night where you play against a team where they were making every shot in the beginning of the game, and it was hard for us on offense. The good thing about us is that we never give up. We kept pushing and pushing, and the last quarter we did a great job of playing defense and helping each other.” - forward Serge Ibaka

!doctype>