10 Assists for Russell Westbrook, part of his seventh-career triple-double as he added 14 points and 13 rebounds
18-8 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night
20-for-30 Combined shooting numbers for Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, who combined for 53 points
32-10 The Thunder’s assist-to-turnover numbers on the night
49 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 18 from Reggie Jackson and 13 from Jeremy Lamb
53.6-42.2 The difference in the Thunder’s favor in shooting percentages on the night
123 Total points for the Thunder, a season-high
Dec. 25th, 2013
NEW YORK – Sharing both holiday cheer and the basketball with one another, the Thunder put their stamp on a big team win in Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day, beating the New York Knicks 123-94.
With 32 assists on 45 made baskets, including 13 helpers on its first 14 made shots, the Thunder was in the business of both protecting and moving the basketball all afternoon. Head Coach Scott Brooks was proud of his team’s ability to keep turnovers to an extremely low 10 while still finding great looks for teammates through player movement, precise passing and great offensive execution.
While Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka led the way in the scoring column, combining for 53 points, the reserve group led by Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb also posted a combined 49 points. Up and down the roster, it was a masterful offensive performance.
“Our offense was probably the best we’ve played all season,” Brooks said. “The ball movement was good and the protection of the basketball was good. That’s something we’re trying to figure out and get better as the season goes along.”
“We moved the ball, we were unselfish and we looked out for each other,” Lamb said. “When we’re playing like that, we’re tough to beat.”
Continued improvement on the offensive end is something the Thunder will keep searching for throughout the season, as well as consistency on the defensive side of the ball. After a tightly contested first quarter, the Thunder broke away with stout defense, eventually holding the Knicks to just 42.2. percent shooting on the afternoon, including 6-for-23 from behind the three-point line. Brooks’ club held New York to just eight fast break points, while managing to play within its defensive shell for long possessions, forcing the Knicks into difficult looks with a hand in the face.
“We closed the paint up and were able to get out to their shooters,” Durant explained. “We contested shots, so once we do that and make them shoot those tough two’s, we can get out (and run).”
Those repeated defensive stops helped the Thunder burst into transition for plays like Russell Westbrook’s mid-court lob to Durant for an alley-oop dunk, or Jeremy Lamb’s old-fashioned three-point play in the secondary break. Westbrook’s 13 rebounds, part of his seventh-career triple double, were a huge factor in terms of getting his team out into transition. When the Thunder did play in the half court, it was Westbrook’s penetration, and ten assists, that helped get his teammates open looks.
“Russell was doing a good job of manipulating the screens, getting into the paint and kicking out to open shots or kicking to Serge for rolls around the basket,” Brooks explained.
The two-man game between Westbrook and Ibaka in the pick-and-roll, or pick-and-pop, is something that has continued to evolve over the past half-decade that the Thunder has been together. In the Thunder’s Christmas Day victory, it was featured prominently as Westbrook continued to poke and weave his way through the Knicks’ defense, perpetually searching for the best possible option.
That mixture of tenacity and patience was instrumental in creating a 10-for-14 shooting night from Ibaka, who racked up 24 points, which came on a variety of shots depending on how Westbrook attacked and where Ibaka relocated.
“Our point guard did a great job to be aggressive and kick the ball out when the guys were wide open,” Ibaka said. “This is my fifth year playing with Westbrook. I know exactly what kind of player he is. I know when I need to roll and when I need to pop.”
“I just tried to make the right play,” Westbrook said. “Guys did a good job of setting screens and running the floor. My job is to make sure they get the ball.”
The Thunder made two important surges in this game, one spanning the first quarter break and the other happening in the third quarter, when the Thunder ensured the game’s result was in hand.
The first run came at the very end of the first quarter with the Thunder leading 33-29. Russell Westbrook hit Nick Collison for a layup on a pick-and-roll to put the Thunder up 6, and then out of the quarter break, Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant each hit a three-pointer before Jeremy Lamb converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Thunder up 44-29 with 10:22 remaining in the second quarter.
The second Thunder burst came with 8:06 left in the third quarter with Brooks’ club up 64-53, when Serge Ibaka started a 13-2 run with two free throws. Westbrook then hit Durant for a three-pointer, then Westbrook made a driving layup himself. Durant then returned the favor by hitting Westbrook for a three-pointer before finding Ibaka in the corner for a three. After that burst, the Thunder held a 77-55 lead with 5:42 left in the quarter.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Great recognition of a triple-team by Kevin Durant to pass out of it, finding Serge Ibaka for a jumper. Slick passing in the lane by Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins to find Ibaka for a wide open dunk. Durant and Westbrook’s eye contact results in a mid-court lob and alley-oop. Nice job by Thabo Sefolosha to make the extra pass to Westbrook, who used a pump fake to get free. Westbrook slaps the ball away from behind to disrupt a possession then Durant hustles down a loose ball.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Incredible vision by Westbrook in transition to find Durant along the wing for a three. Great fight underneath by Sefolosha to snag a loose defensive rebound and run it out. Durant swallows up a drive with his length, snatching the ball out of mid-air from his man. Nice work on the offensive glass by Steven Adams and Nick Collison to slap the ball around and get it to Reggie Jackson for three. Derek Fisher gets his hand in the passing lane to deflect a ball and get a teammate a steal. Beautiful passing from Lamb to Collison to Adams for a wide open dunk.
“Our team knows that when we move the basketball and defend, we put a lot of pressure on teams.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks