7 Blocks for Serge Ibaka, the most by any Thunder player this season
9 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 29 points and three steals
29 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to four rebounds, three assists and three blocks
31-20 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points, where it shot 10-for-11
46 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 11 from Caron Butler
50.6-39.4 The Thunder’s edge in shooting percentages on the night as it scored a season-high 131 points
60 Rebounds by the Thunder, the most in a game this year, led by Serge Ibaka’s 13
March 13th, 2014
Like a house built brick-by-brick, the Thunder wants to stack solid offensive and defensive efforts on top of one another each night.
Thursday night in a 131-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder put the mortar on and stacked another brick, scoring the most points it has all season while still holding the Lakers to under 40 percent shooting from the field.
With rookie guard Andre Roberson in the starting lineup, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club set the tone from the very start. Roberson slapped away a pass on the wing that bounced high in the air, Russell Westbrook soared high to tip it to himself and then streaked down-court for a slam dunk.
The Lakers only lead of the game was when the score was 3-2, but Westbrook hit the first of his four three-pointers on the night to give the Thunder the lead for good, and the rout was on.
“We came out with a defensive mindset, then offensively we were moving the ball,” Brooks said. “Andre came in and gave us some good energy… We did a pretty good job of matching up in transition. We didn’t give them a lot of easy looks.”
All night long the Thunder dealt with the NBA’s third-best three-point shooting team by keeping a tight defensive shell, rotating as one unit and closing out on shooters along the perimeter. By out-rebounding the Lakers 60-37, and amassing the most rebounds in one game for the team this season, the Thunder gave Los Angeles very few easy looks at the basket.
Westbrook and Kevin Durant then supplied most of the offense, each scoring 29, while Caron Butler’s 11 points led the bench unit which amassed 46 points altogether. That scoring, which was produced on 50.6 percent shooting, including 13-for-30 from the three-point line, came as a direct result of strong defensive possessions that ended with a rebound and resulted in 31 fast break points.
“It was just contesting their shots, using our hands and being a lot more aggressive than we were last time,” Westbrook said.
“Our disposition has been different the last two games,” Butler said. “If you want to be a contender in this league on a night-to-night basis, you have to start on the defensive end.”
When the Thunder was forced to attack in the halfcourt, it had no problem there either. Durant did most of his damage in the fourth quarter when he scored 12 points, while Westbrook controlled the first and third quarters. When the Lakers cut the Thunder’s lead to 11 midway through the third period, Westbrook took control by dishing a pass to Butler for a three-pointer, then scoring 12 straight points on his own, including three three-pointers.
Possession after possession in that third quarter, Westbrook set up on the right hand side of the floor, with Serge Ibaka sprinting over the set an angle screen just above the three-point line at the wing. Westbrook repeatedly turned the corner and took what the defense gave him. The first time was a drive to the paint and the next four times were open looks on the perimeter.
“Serge did a great job of setting screens and he also did a good job of rolling,” Westbrook said. “When he rolls, he collapses the defense and it gives me a little space to work.”
Ibaka’s contribution on the night wasn’t just limited to his screen setting. He was seemingly everywhere on both ends of the floor. With 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, a game-high 13 rebounds and a season-high seven blocked shots, Ibaka’s energy and relentlessness was more than just a factor. Whether he was out-muscling three Lakers for an offensive put-back or chasing down a fast break layup to save a basket, Ibaka changed the game, as he has been doing all season.
“He’s just being active,” Westbrook said. “When Serge plays like this, it’s tough to beat us. He protects the basket, rebounds and runs and the rest will take care of itself.”
“Serge has really been good. He’s having a good year. This is a stretch where we’re seeing more growth. He’s chasing down shots, altering and blocking them. He’s getting rebounds, spotting up and driving. He’s really picked up his game. He’s very efficient.”
Two big Thunder bursts told the tale of this game, the first coming mid-way through the first quarter as the Thunder clung to a 17-14 lead with 5:22 remaining. Russell Westbrook hit Steven Adams for a layup, then Serge Ibaka followed a Westbrook miss for a dunk. After a Lakers free throw, Reggie Jackson hit Ibaka for a top-of-the-key three-pointer, then Ibaka screened for Kevin Durant out top to get him open for a three. A Jackson floater and two free throws by Durant gave the Thunder a 31-17 lead to cap a 14-3 run.
The second run came in the third quarter as the Lakers chipped at the lead until it was just 11 at 69-58 with 7:31 remaining in the period. Coming out of a timeout, Westbrook found Caron Butler for a big corner three-pointer, then Butler drove and kicked to Ibaka for a mid-range jumper.
“I think it was a momentum booster,” Butler said of his shot. “Obviously getting this crowd in particular into the game. We feed off their energy so it’s always a boost.”
After that, Westbrook hit a three-pointer, made three free throws, then hit two more three-pointers to give the Thunder an 86-62 lead with 5:07 remaining. The quick 17-4 run, fueled by Westbrook’s 12 straight, gave the Thunder a lead that would never dip below 17 again.
“It’s just practice and taking my time, not rushing it as much and shooting it with confidence,” Westbrook said of his three-point shot.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Russell Westbrook soars high to tip a loose ball that Andre Roberson created to himself for a fast break dunk. Steven Adams deflects an entry pass and knocks it out of bounds, disrupting a possession. All five Thunder players help and recover to get a nice defensive stop, ending with Serge Ibaka tipping a loose ball to Kevin Durant. Great communication between Ibaka and Durant to get a screen up top in transition. Solid individual defense by Perry Jones keeps his man in front and forces a missed shot.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Westbrook tips an entry pass by keeping his hands up on defense as Adams converged to intercept it. Ibaka pressures strong on the ball to force his man into a turnover. Nice on-ball pressure from Ibaka and Westbrook forces an errant Lakers pass. Incredible movement off the ball by Andre Roberson to keep his eyes up and hands ready for a lightning-quick pass from Westbrook. Caron Butler dives into the first row to save a loose ball. Derek Fisher dives on the ground for a loose ball then calls a timeout to regain possession.
“When we come to a huddle, we say ‘All in’. No one is straddling the fence. Whatever is required, everybody is all in. Whether it’s five minutes, ten minutes, 25, 30, all in. We need everybody’s help and who knows when your number is going to be called. - forward Caron Butler