8 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, in addition to 14 points
11 Steals by the Thunder, including two-or-more by four different players
13-2 The Thunder’s advantage in second chance points on the night
21-11 The Thunder’s edge in bench points, including eight for Perry Jones
23:53 Minutes played by Russell Westbrook, who finished with 16 poitns, five rebounds, three steals and two assists
28 Points for Kevin Durant to lead the Thunder, in addition to eight rebounds, three assists and two steals
29-18 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night
Feb. 20th, 2014
There are certain staples of Thunder basketball that helped get the team to a 43-12 record heading into Thursday night’s game, its first after the All-Star Break. Unfortunately for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club, many of those characteristics weren’t there tonight, as the Thunder fell 103-81 to the Miami Heat.
Nine turnovers in the first quarter negated the quick 4-0 start for the Thunder, giving Miami 14 points off turnovers and eight in transition in the first 12 minutes alone. That quarter set the tone for the night, as the Thunder didn’t play with the requisite force to get over the hump.
Kevin Durant paced the Thunder with 28 points and Perry Jones gave the team a shot in the arm with eight and five rebounds, but the Thunder’s defense allowed Miami to shoot 54.7 percent and score 50 points in the paint. 20 Thunder turnovers became 27 Miami points, negating advantages in fast break points and second chance points for the Thunder.
Despite nine straight points from Russell Westbrook to end the first half and cut the Heat’s lead to seven and a 7-0 burst by Durant to end the third quarter and pull within 11, Miami continually rebuffed every Thunder comeback try.
“The first few possessions we started out strong,” Durant explained. “Then they started moving the basketball really quick and opened up the lead.”
“We just didn’t bring the appropriate amount of focus and attention to detail that is necessary to play against every team, but especially against really good teams,” guard Derek Fisher said. “You have to tip your cap to them in that regard.”
Thursday night’s game marked the first return to game action for Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who notched 16 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in just under 24 minutes of action. The verve in Chesapeake Energy Arena was palpable as the three-time All Star was announced in the starting lineup after missing the last 27 games.
On the Thunder’s first defensive possession, Westbrook slapped the ball out of his man’s hands from behind, then took a long outlet pass and slammed home a dunk for the game’s first two points. Predictably, the arena erupted, giving Westbrook a pleasant return to the game floor.
“We have the best fans in all of sports,” Westbrook said. “They did a great job of lifting me up and cheering as loud as they could which is a great feeling.”
“It was good to really get into transition and get an easy bucket and get the crowd involved and get some energy in the building,” Westbrook continued.
As for the Thunder as a whole, tonight’s game was a lesson in just how important shot-making can be, along with playing with intensity, focus and force to start the game. By shooting just 2-for-20 from the three-point line, the Thunder’s offense didn’t put pressure on Miami to guard the perimeter, thus clogging the lane. On defense, the Thunder will look to put more pressure on ballhandlers and prevent easy looks at the rim.
Over the next two weeks with the Thunder in town on a six-game home stand, the team will have a number of practices to do what it does best – problem solve. The Thunder propelled itself to the NBA’s best record at the All-Star Break by sticking to its principles and working together, which is exactly what it hopes to do this week and as the season moves to the home stretch.
“Hopefully we can continue to get better,” Fisher explained. “It’s not about winning or losing one game in an 82 game season, so we don’t have to get caught up in losing this game tonight, but there are some things we didn’t do as a team that we have to hold ourselves more accountable for.”
The Thunder cut the Heat lead to just five points after halftime, but a 16-2 Miami burst put the Heat ahead by 19, and the Thunder would never get closer than 11 the rest of the way. With 11:20 left in the third quarter the Thunder trailed just 54-49, but after LeBron James jumper, a Mario Chalmers jumper and two Chris Bosh free throws, the Heat’s lead was back in double digits. Two James fast break buckets and a Shane Battier layup were followed up by back-to-back buckets by Dwyane Wade. During that stretch, the Thunder’s only points came on two Russell Westbrook free throws, as the team turned the ball over four times.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Russell Westbrook slaps the ball out from his man’s hands from behind and finishes a fast break dunk. Perfect set-up by Kevin Durant to jab step then get back to the bucket for an alley-oop. Durant dives into the passing lane and tips away a pass to force a turnover. Slick cut to the middle of the lane by Reggie Jackson, who snags a pass from Jeremy Lamb for a bucket. Derek Fisher sticks with a play and slaps the ball away from behind. Perry Jones fights hard on the defensive glass on multiple possessions to get possession back.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Serge Ibaka hustles down floor in transition to snag an offensive rebound and put it back. Thabo Sefolsoha hustles in post defense to slap the ball around then force a jump ball. Ibaka deflects an entry pass to disrupt a Heat possession. Nice jab step by Jones to shake his man then step back for a three-pointer. Nice transition screen by Ibaka to free up Durant for a three-pointer. Excellent defensive anticipation by Jackson to recover from the helpside to close out. Westbrook dives on the floor, hustling to get to a loose ball. Tough Thunder defense forces a shot clock violation.
“One thing I know about our guys is that we’ll get back into the gym tomorrow, bounce-back, and get ready for the next game.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks