THUNDER 112
HEAT 95
6 Steals for Thabo Sefolosha, tying a season-high, in addition to nine points, five rebounds and four assists

8 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, in addition to 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting

16 Three-pointers made by the Thunder, the most in Thunder history. Derek Fisher made all five of his attempts and Jeremy Lamb made a career-high four

20-8 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points, where it only allowed the Heat four shot attempts

23 Assists for the Thunder, as four different players registered four-or-more

25 Points scored by the Thunder off of 21 Miami turnovers

33 Points for Kevin Durant, extending his streak of scoring 30-or-more to 12 straight games

39 Bench points for the Thunder, including 18 from Jeremy Lamb and 15 from Derek Fisher

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Jan. 29th, 2014
RECAP:

MIAMI – Facing adversity and some frustrating numbers on the scoreboard early, the Thunder stood tall together, made the proper adjustments, then methodically executed its way to a huge comeback victory.

Trailing 22-4 at the 6:20 mark in the first quarter, the Thunder’s confidence didn’t waver. By getting contributions up and down the roster from its starters to its reserves, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team continually made stops on defense and found open looks on offense to take a 112-95 road victory over the Miami Heat. The leader on both ends of the floor tonight was Kevin Durant, serving as the sparkplug that ignited the entire team as it came back from the second largest deficit in Thunder history.

The NBA’s scoring leader had 33 points on 12-for-23 shooting in addition to seven rebounds, five assists and two steals, but he also set the table for continued ball movement by passing out of traps and double-teams at the top of the key, helping the Thunder play 4-on-3 quickly on the weak side.

“We couldn’t panic,” Durant said. “We just tried to stay together and that’s what we did. Our bench was great getting us back into the game. We knew they were going to put a lot of pressure on us in the pick-and-roll, so we just wanted to make the right passes, and that’s what we did.”

Both the Thunder and the Heat are high-level offensive teams that have the ability to produce offense quickly and efficiently, but the difference in this one was the way the Thunder locked in on the defensive end, particularly over the final three-and-a-half quarters.

By forcing the Heat into 21 turnovers, the Thunder gained extra possessions that led to 25 points off turnovers in addition to 20 fast break points. With versatile defenders along the perimeter in Durant, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones, who started the second half, the Thunder clogged up the lanes and forced Miami into giveaways or difficult long range shots for most of the night.

“When we get stops, we can be a very explosive, dynamic offensive team,” Brooks said. “That’s our game plan every night, to get defensive stops. That’s what we talk about and that’s what we believe in. That’s what our guys do night-in and night-out and it helps our offense.”

“Length goes a long way,” Jones said. “We go out there and get hands in the passing lanes, having them make tougher passes and just playing good defense… It gets us in a flow.”

The energizer for the Thunder on the defensive end was Sefolosha, who recorded a season-high-tying six steals and combined with Nick Collison to earn the most time spent diving on the floor for loose balls. Those moments of hustle, hedges on the pick and roll and speedy recoveries with hands extended into the passing lanes make the difference between getting stops and allowing opponents to get easy offense.

Tonight, like usual, was a maestro in the way he was seemingly everywhere on the defensive end, giving the Thunder a chance to run in transition and set up offense in the secondary break as opposed to having to execute in the half-court, helping the Thunder shoot 51.3 percent while only allowing 14 points off of its own turnovers.

“It was just like every night,” Sefolosha said. “I come out, play hard, take the matchup for what it is, a challenge, and rely on the whole team. That’s what we do, communicate defensively, and we did that great tonight.”

“He does it every night for us and it definitely can be infectious,” Collison said of Sefolosha. “If you watch us and wonder why we’re getting stops, a lot of times it is because of what he’s doing. He’s making two or three efforts, which is really tough to do.”

Those strong defensive possessions opened things up for the Thunder offense, which showed just how lethal it can be when it fully trusts one another with the pass in the flow of the offense. The ball zipped around the perimeter and when it got to the high post, Serge Ibaka either knocked down two of his 22 points or moved it along to teammates. In fact, Brooks’ squad knocked down a Thunder record 16 three-pointers, including a 5-for-5 night from Derek Fisher and a career-best four from Jeremy Lamb.

Six different Thunder players scored nine-or-more points, a sign of a team dedicated to taking what the defense gave them, then executing out of it with precision. Outside of Durant and Ibaka’s combined 55 points, the Thunder’s bench did most of the heavy lifting, scoring 39 points on 14-for-23 shooting. Lamb led the second unit with 18 points, plus four assists and three rebounds, and Fisher’s 15 points were all timely and inspiring to the rest of the unit.

“We passed the ball and had a lot of open shots,” Lamb said. “That was huge. When you pass the ball like that, that’s what a shooter loves… When we share the ball like that, it’s fun.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder was down 22-4 in the first quarter and the team was being pushed on both ends of the floor, but because of its resolve, bounced back and made this one interesting. A 12-0 burst that started with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter helped bring the Thunder to within six at 22-16 with 2:04 left in the quarter, and the team never trailed by more than 11 the rest of the way.

The burst started with a Derek Fisher three-pointer, then a Kevin Durant steal led to a finger-roll layup. The Thunder forced four turnovers during the four minute stretch, the last two resulting in a Serge Ibaka hook shot in the lane and a Durant jumper that was called good because of goaltending, plus a foul shot. Durant knocked home two free throws on the next possession to make it a two possession game.

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

Excellent play to start eh game as Serge Ibaka popped out from a screen and Reggie Jackson hit him for a jumper. Ibaka saves a basket by coming over in helpside defense to swat one away at the rim. Incredible patience by Thabo Sefolosha in transition to wait until the right moment to dish a pass to Jeremy Lamb for a three-pointer in the secondary break. Incredible instincts by Perry Jones to slide over in helpside defense to block a shot and start a fast break. Derek Fisher dives on the floor and tips a loose ball to Durant, who starts a fast break. Lamb slaps the ball out of Dwyane Wade’s hands to disrupt a possession. Reggie Jackson hustles back in transition and intercepts a lob attempt.

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

Incredible ball movement out of the screen and roll nets Perry Jones a wide open corner three-pointer off a pass from Ibaka. Sefolosha tips a ball away from LeBron James then dives on the floor to save it to a teammate, leading to a Thunder fast break. Strong box out by Ibaka allows a teammate to grab a defensive rebound, starting a fast break. Jackson helps off of his man by anticipating a back cut, makes a steal that leads to a fast break. Incredible play to end the third quarter as Jones tips a full court pass to Fisher, who knocks down a three. Collison dives on the floor to save a possession.



”The effort was great. It’s a good team win. A lot of guys chipped in… We have the flexibility to play a few different styles and a few different players. I always tell the guys that you have to be ready.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

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