14 Steals for the Thunder, including six in the fourth quarter
17-9 The advantage for the Thunder in fast break points tonight
21-for-24 Shooting numbers for the Thunder from the free throw line, including 12-for-12 from Kevin Durant
26 Points scored by the Thunder off of 23 Lakers turnovers, nine of which the Thunder forced in the fourth quarter
35-21 The Thunder’s scoring edge in the fourth quarter
43 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals
44-34 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint on the night
Feb. 13th, 2014
LOS ANGELES – He hadn’t played a minute all night, but when Thunder guard Andre Roberson stepped on the floor in the third quarter, he was ready to make an impact.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club trailed by as many as 15 points in its final tilt before the All Star Break, but thanks to a massive fourth quarter comeback, the Thunder battled to a 107-103 victory. The win put the Thunder at 43-12 heading into the break, the NBA’s best record, amassed because every player on the roster made some sort of positive contribution throughout the season.
Tonight it was Roberson’s turn as he immediately changed the tempo and pace of the game with his defensive intensity, eventually swinging the momentum as the team rallied with a 20-2 run to take its first lead of the game mid-way through the fourth quarter. Despite not getting consistent minutes during the year, Roberson stepped up when called upon.
“That’s what we talk about with all of our team,” Brooks said. “You have to stay ready and when you’re given an opportunity, you have to make the best of it. Andre’s defensive minutes were huge in that fourth quarter. He got into the basketball and he took pride in it. That’s what we do collectively as a team.”
The Thunder had given up 54 first half points to the Lakers, who shot 48.2 percent from the field overall on the night, but in the fourth quarter, players like Roberson, Kevin Durant, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison and Jeremy Lamb helped swing the defensive tide. By forcing the Lakers into nine of its 23 turnovers in the first six minutes of the final period, the Thunder repeatedly got out into transition, and more importantly prevented Los Angeles from getting looks at the basket for minutes at a time.
“The turnovers were the difference there in that fourth quarter,” Fisher explained. “We finally got some defensive activity from those five guys that were out there on the floor. We made it a lot more difficult for them to make some of those passes and get those shots.”
“For us it always comes back to defense,” Fisher continued. “On a bad night, we can score 100 points. We just have to find a way to stop the other team from scoring 100 and we’ll be good.”
As Fisher mentioned, the Thunder had no issues on the offensive end, as Durant put together yet another magnificent all-around night with 43 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals to lead his team to 23 assists. Reggie Jackson, Fisher, Lamb and Serge Ibaka all aided Durant in double figures in the scoring column, but it was their contributions on defense that made the difference.
Ibaka had five blocks, the team as a whole had 14 steals and scored 26 points off of the Lakers turnovers, including 17 fast break points. Much of that defensive pressure and up-tempo play was a result of Roberson’s energy, which teammates like Durant fed off of on both ends.
“He’s a mature rookie,” Durant said. “He knows his role. He knows what he can do and that’s defend at a high level, rebound the basketball and keep the defense honest by cutting to the rim. He did a great job of that tonight. I’m proud of him. That’s my rookie and I’m glad to see him get an opportunity to play.”
Roberson’s stat line of 2-for-4 shooting for four points and three rebounds won’t pop out, especially since he wasn’t credited with a steal, but that’s why Brooks, his staff and the team looks beyond the box score to derive positive contributions. There’s no number on the stat sheet to quantify the screens Roberson chased his man around, the moment when he tapped a loose ball back inbounds so a teammate could grab it or his instinctual relocation to catch a desperation save from Nick Collison.
Even though he didn’t see a second of action in the first half, Roberson epitomized the mentality of every Thunder player by being prepared, staying focused and being sharp physically and mentally for when his time came. Thanks to spending time with the Thunder’s Tulsa affiliate, the 66ers, Roberson has had the opportunity to get game time and experience, even if he wasn’t seeing regular minutes for the Thunder.
Those chances to get out on the floor, stay in prime game-shape and learn in real time provided Roberson with the ability to impact a game, and ultimately, help the team win on a night when it otherwise might not have.
“Coach tells the guys, not just me, to stay ready because you never know when your number will be called,” Roberson said. “It was just our ability to grind it out and stick with it.”
“The things I do down in Tulsa, I do the same things up here,” Roberson continued. “It gives me an opportunity for a little more playing time down there and a few more reps. I come up here and it shows that the work pays off and I’m going to continue going with the process.”
The dramatic 20-2 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter completely changed the rhythm and emotion of the game. The Thunder’s defense clamped down by forcing nine Lakers turnovers in the first six minutes of the quarter, as the run began with the Thunder trailing 85-72 just seconds into the fourth quarter.
Offensively, the burst started with a three-pointer from Kevin Durant, then two free throws each from Durant and Jeremy Lamb. Lamb followed that up with a transition three-pointer off a steal. Roberson scored on a put-back layup before Derek Fisher hit a crucial three-pointer to tie the game. Durant continued the run with a driving layup and capped the burst with a three-pointer to make it 92-87 Thunder with 5:45 remaining.
“Andre Roberson gave me energy just by how he played and how he came out and got rebounds, cut behind the defense and kept basketballs alive. Nick gave me energy and Fish gave me energy,” Durant said.
“Those guys inspired me and ignited me to come out and play harder for the team,” Durant continued. “The defense in the fourth by those guys was unbelievable, getting hands on the basketball, contesting shots and making them turn the ball over, those guys won the game for us.”
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Serge Ibaka hustles back in transition to save a sure bucket with a blocked shot. Thabo Sefolosaha keeps his hands out and in the passing lane, forcing the Lakers into a turnover. Reggie Jackson follows his own miss and then tips it to himself, creating an extra Thunder possession and resulting in a Sefolosha three-pointer. Kevin Durant tips a pass headed to the corner, disrupting a Lakers possession. Steven Adams sticks with a play and forces the ball to go out off a Lakers player.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Durant slaps the ball around on the boards to keep possession alive for his team. Ibaka’s individual post defense frustrates his man and results in a Lakers turnover. Andre Roberson closes out hard on his man and forces him into a travel. Slick cut into the lane by Roberson to free himself up for a dunk off a Durant pass. Incredible hustle by Roberson and Nick Collison to get on the floor to force a jump ball. Collison jumps out of bounds to save a ball and Roberson steps in to grab it and make a layup.
“That shows that we stayed strong through those storms and kept fighting and were able to make some big plays down the stretch. I’m proud of our guys.” – forward Kevin Durant