11 Steals by the Thunder, including three by Russell Westbrook
12 Assists for Kevin Durant, part of his third triple double of the season
14-2 The Thunder’s advantage in second chance points as it racked up 19 offensive rebounds
15 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka, including eight on the offensive end
20-14 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points
35 Bench points scored by the Thunder, led by 14 from Reggie Jackson
59-36 The Thunder’s rebounding edge on the afternoon, including ten rebounds from Kevin Durant, nine from Reggie Jackson and seven from Russell Westbrook
March 9th, 2014
LOS ANGELES – It’s called the Wild West for a reason. Any outcome is possible in every Western Conference game, as the Thunder found out Sunday.
Both the Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers held 18-point leads at different points in the proceedings during Sunday afternoon’s contest, but Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad couldn’t quite get back over the hump, falling 114-110.
The Thunder closed out the first quarter with solid defensive intensity, building a 35-26 lead at the break, an edge that eventually crested at 18 midway through the second quarter. The Lakers closed the second quarter with a 17-3 run that gave the Thunder just a five point lead heading into halftime. Brooks’ club started the second half with good energy, outscoring the Lakers 9-2 to start the period before the Lakers’ 23-2 run to close the third quarter changed the game completely.
The Thunder had some strong stretches, particularly in the fourth quarter when it battled back to cut the Lakers’ 18-point lead to just three with 45 seconds left and the ball. Russell Westbrook missed a three-pointer, then Kent Bazemore finished a tough driving layup to put the game out of reach at 112-107 with 14.3 seconds left.
“This league is about guys competing for 48 minutes,” Brooks explained. “You can’t take possessions off. No matter who we have on the floor, their job is to stay in front of their man on the defensive end. We have to do a better job with that. There’s no sugarcoating it. We have to be a better defensive team if we want to build our team moving forward.”
It was clear that the Thunder’s struggles on the afternoon didn’t come from the offensive side of the ball as the team racked up 26 assists and scored plenty of points to earn a win. Kevin Durant registered his third triple double of the season with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, while Serge Ibaka had a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double and Russell Westbrook racked up 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The issue for the Thunder was on the defensive end of the floor, as the Lakers’ Jodie Meeks went off for 42 points and the Lakers knocked down 13 three pointers en route to 46.9 percent shooting from the field. Overzealous closeouts, unnecessary double teams in the post, late rotations and a lack of communication were all a part of the lacking defensive execution. The Lakers spread the Thunder out for drive-and-dish opportunities all game, something Brooks’ team will have to work out moving forward.
“We have to lock in on the defensive end,” Brooks said. “When you play these teams that have great three-point shooters, you have to be able to close out on the catch and not get beat on the drive because their next pass is a three-point shot. That hurt us tonight.”
With 19 games remaining in the regular season, the self-aware Thunder understands the challenge that lays before it in preparation for the postseason. At 46-17, Brooks’ club has put together an outstanding season thus far, but must continue staying sharp and working together to problem solve as everyone gets adjusted.
Without Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, two injured starters, and with the re-addition of Westbrook and integration of Caron Butler into the rotation, Brooks and his staff have an exciting challenge ahead to find the best possible combinations, rotations and schemes to enhance the team’s chances as April approaches.
“Unfortunately we fell a little short and didn’t get the win,” Butler said. “We’re trying to figure each other out… It’s going to come along. We have a good bulk of games left before we hit the playoffs for that.”
“The good thing about it is that this is not who we are,” Brooks said. “We can get back to where we’ve been all season long. It’s going to take some extra work on the practice floor and the film room. We have the ability to do it. We have plenty of time.”
The Thunder built an 18-point lead in the first half and was up 12 after three minutes had gone by in the third quarter, but over a five minute stretch in the third quarter, a 70-61 Thunder lead completely evaporated and turned into an 84-72 Lakers edge. The Lakers’ 23-2 run started with a Jodie Meeks three-point jump shot, then after a timeout, Meeks hit two free throws. A Russell Westbrook turnover resulted in a Pau Gasol three-point play.
Meeks followed up two free throws with back-to-back three-pointers, then another pair of free throws. To close out the run, Jordan Farmar hit a three-pointer and Kent Bazemore hit a driving bank shot to put the Lakers up 12. The Thunder would pull back to within three, but the Lakers’ massive run was the turning point in this one.
“We were up 18 and then we stopped competing on the defensive end,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “They went on a run to close that second quarter out. A lot of it was that we had some bad turnovers. Then the third quarter, we didn’t come out with the defensive toughness that it takes to win in this league. We have to correct that.”
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong screen up top by Steven Adams to free up Russell Westbrook for a jump shot. Nice awareness by Caron Butler to tip a loose ball to a teammate and start a fast break. Beautiful passing from Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher who use a cross-court and bounce pass to get Hasheem Thabeet an easy dunk. Reggie Jackson hustles underneath his own basket to save a ball from going out of bounds. Butler steps over in helpside defense to force a Lakers player to travel in the lane. Great hustle by Jackson to fight around a screen and draw an offensive foul. Ibaka smartly slaps an offensive rebound back out to the top of the key.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Adams keeps his hands high and tips a loose ball to himself to force a Lakers turnover. Nice closeout by Perry Jones to force Jodie Meeks to travel. Great helpside defense by Ibaka to force a Pau Gasol airball, then Adams clears space in the lane on offense to draw a foul. Jackson flies back in transition defense and intercepts a pass. Strong post defense by Ibaka to force Gasol into a travel. Westbrook dives into the first row to save a loose ball.
“We have to do a better job of executing on the defensive end of the floor. It comes down to just taking pride in you guarding your man. We had trouble staying in front of the basketball tonight. It’s something that we have to continue to work on and build going forward.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks