4 Blocks for Serge Ibaka, who also scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds

5 Assists for Jeremy Lamb, who also had 13 points, five rebounds and two steals as the Thunder racked up 26 assists

7-for-12 Shooting numbers for Russell Westbrook, who had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds

18-6 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points thanks to forcing 17 turnovers which created 19 points

20-2 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint in the third quarter alone

29 Points for Kevin Durant, extending his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 37, three shy of Michael Jordan’s modern record of 40

36.5 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Kings to, including 15-for-41 shooting inside the paint

60-28 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the Kings in the first and second quarters combined

March 28th, 2014

At the top of the Thunder’s defense, Russell Westbrook takes the challenge to set the defensive tone each night.

In a 94-81 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday night, Westbrook and the rest of Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club played some suffocating defense as it held the Kings to just 36.5 percent shooting from the field.

By bursting out of the gates with a 32-15 first quarter and out-scoring Sacramento 28-13 in the third quarter, Westbrook and the starters made sure the Kings felt their defensive pressure from the very start. Serge Ibaka had four blocked shots and the Thunder perimeter defenders helped rack up eight steals and force 17 turnovers, which resulted in 19 points.

“The first quarter and the third quarter we came out with a good defensive disposition,” Brooks explained. “Our bigs were active. Serge did a great job of blocking shots, contesting shots and being in the right spots defensively. Russell, (Durant) and Andre all were active. They were using their length. We were getting into the passing lanes. We were locked in defensively.”

“We did a great job of focusing on us and trying to focus in on our team and not try to worry about them too much,” Westbrook said.

As a result of getting stops, the Thunder’s offense operated smoothly as well, outscoring the Kings 18-6 in fast break points and shooting 19-for-28 in the paint, as opposed to Sacramento’s 15-for-41 shooting night. In fact, in the third quarter alone, the Thunder outscored the Kings 20-2 in the paint, getting easy looks near the rim for nearly everyone. Durant led the way with 29 points, extending his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 37, just three shy of Michael Jordan’s modern NBA record. Westbrook added 18 points as he and Durant each dished out six assists.

“Our setups were good,” Brooks said. “We were moving the basketball. We were coming hard off of screens. We were looking for each other on all of our pick and roll actions. We have some good players who understand the game.”

The recipient of some of Durant and Westbrook’s passes was Jeremy Lamb, who scored 13 points while shooting 3-for-6 from behind the three-point stripe. It was the other ways that Lamb impacted the game which was most impressive however, as he drove-and-dished to teammates to rack up five assists to go with his five rebounds. On the defensive side of the ball his impact was felt the most as he snatched two steals in addition to using his long arms to swat the ball away and disrupt Kings possessions on multiple occasions.

“I just try to impact the game in other ways than scoring,” Lamb explained. “I tried to set my teammates up and tried to play some good defense. When Coach (Brooks) trusts me to go in the game or my teammates trust me out there, I want to make them proud.”

“He was good tonight,” Brooks said. “He was doing a good job defensively. Obviously he made some shots but I liked his defensive toughness tonight. He has to continue to just keep working. One thing he will have is a team of guys who believe in him.”

As the Thunder continues to build consistency on both ends of the floor over the final two-and-a-half weeks of the regular season in preparation for the Playoffs, tonight’s performance can be an important step in the right direction. The team has won five of its last six contests, and if it defends the way it did for the majority of the night, holding Sacramento to just 51 points through three quarters, it will give itself a chance to win every night.

By holding 20-point scorers Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins to a combined 11 points on 5-for-19 shooting, the Thunder used impressive individual defense in addition to a solid team-wide scheme to shut down the Kings’ duo. If it uses that formula from here on out, Durant and company like their chances against anyone.

“We put both sides of the floor together pretty well and will try to move forward,” Durant said. “It’s tough to stop them with one person, so we did it together. Not one guy can take credit for stopping Gay or Cousins. We just tried to do it together and rely on each other and we did a good job.”


The Thunder had built a double-digit lead, but it was cut to 21-14 with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter. In a flash, that Thunder advantage reached 18 points thanks to four consecutive made jumpers, three of which came off of assists from Jeremy Lamb. After a Thunder timeout, Lamb found Kevin Durant for a 15-foot fadeaway jumper. Durant then pulled up from three-point range after the Thunder forced a missed shot.

With the drive-and-dish, Lamb then found Caron Butler for back-to-back three-pointers, giving the Thunder a 32-14 edge with 58.9 seconds remaining in the quarter. The Thunder’s defense forced three straight missed shots in the 90-second span, giving it a lead that would never dip below 12 again.


Nice work by Steven Adams to get around his man and deflect an entry pass to DeMarcus Cousins, which then went out of bounds off of a Kings player. Serge Ibaka smartly tips a defensive rebound to Russell Westbrook to start a transition opportunity. Excellent awareness by Jeremy Lamb to come over from the weak-side to slap the ball away and make a steal. Lamb stays active on the defensive end to disrupt two possessions in a row by slapping the ball away.


Excellent trap in the corner by Steven Adams and Kevin Durant to force Rudy Gay into a turnover. Slick backdoor cut by Andre Roberson to make himself available under the rim for a laser-sharp pass by Durant. Wonderful communication by Derek Fisher and Hasheem Thabeet and quick feet from all five Thunder players to force a shot clock violation. Nice non-verbal communication by Lamb to signal to Caron Butler when to switch back to his original defensive assignment.

“We try to help each other out and always try to be there for one another. When we can do that and contest every shot, it’s hard to score on us.” - guard Jeremy Lamb