10 Steals by the Thunder on the night, in addition to seven blocked shots
12 Rebounds for Russell Westbrook on the night, his sixth double-double on the season
18-for-20 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 6-for-6 from the bench
28 Points for Kevin Durant on an efficient 11-for-18 shooting as he also added nine rebounds and five assists
27-12 Advantage in fast break points for the Thunder, thanks to 17 points off turnovers
39 Bench points for the Thunder, led by Jeremy Lamb’s 16 on 7-for-10 shooting
50-30 The Thunder’s edge in points in the paint, where it shot 25-for-38 and the Magic shot 15-for-31
Dec. 15th, 2013
Winning in the NBA is no easy task regardless of opponent, which is why the Thunder treats every win it can get as valuable and precious.
In a 101-98 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday night over the Orlando Magic, the Thunder took control late in the second quarter and built a double-digit advantage, but the Magic clawed back late to pull within two. In the final seconds, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club gutted out a victory as Kevin Durant knocked down a free throw, the five-man defensive effort forced a difficult missed three-pointer by the Magic’s Glen Davis and Serge Ibaka made a basket-saving blocked shot at the rim to seal the victory.
“The most important thing is the team win,” Ibaka said. “I just wanted to try to be focused and help my team finish the game strong. I just go there and jump. I know it’s the last second so it’s really hard when time is going down for the guy to get a rebound and pump-fake, so I just jumped early and tried to get a blocked shot.”
It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest win for the Thunder, who will continue working on both ends of the floor to clean up help-side rotations on defense and execution on offense, but the energy and effort was there. An attribute of high-performing NBA teams is the ability to win close games even when they aren’t playing their best basketball. As former NBA champion and Thunder center Kendrick Perkins noted, being the team whose defensive attitude and mindset can help wrestle away a victory thanks to guile and late-game savvy.
“Sometimes you just have to find a way to win,” Perkins said. “We don’t like to put ourselves in that position, but just in case we have to, we can. We have guys who can switch out on any position.”
Early in the evening the Thunder’s defense was playing at a high level and creating easy chances on the offensive end. Brooks’ squad started the night with five steals in the first quarter, as the team eventually racked up 27 fast break points and 17 points off of 14 Magic turnovers. Those high-percentage buckets started on the opening possession as Russell Westbrook made one of his two steals and slammed home a dunk for two of his 20 points. The Thunder made 17 combined steals and blocks on the night, and even if those possession-altering plays didn’t result in a layup, it got players like Kevin Durant open looks before Orlando’s defense could get set.
“It just gets us easy baskets,” Durant said. “Once you start to hit layups and get dunks, it opens the flood gates a little bit. We were able to get started there, but you have to be able to play 48 minutes. Tonight we had some tough stretches but we just kept fighting.”
Durant was ultra-efficient on the night for his team, shooting 11-for-18 and racking up 28 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists. His sharp-shooting partner on the evening was Jeremy Lamb, who knocked down 7-of-10 shots en route to 16 points. Durant scored in a plethora of ways – in the post, spotting up for three and coming off of screens, while Lamb was able to be effective coming off of pin-downs and curls in the elbow area. After the game, both players credited their teammates for helping them get open and that their mindset is still solely locked in on continuing to improve and make an even higher percentage of their looks.
“I have the easy part,” Lamb explained. “All I do is come off fast. They do the job where they to screen, get physical and do all of that. We have great screen setters in Perkins, Nick (Collison), Steven (Adams) and those guys, so you have to credit them.”
“I’m one of those guys who wants to make every shot,” Durant said. “I feel I can go back and watch and see the shots I missed tonight and try to correct and look at my footwork and see how I can make those shots. My teammates are getting me open. Perk sets so many great screens, Russ sets me up so many times, so I can’t take all the credit for it.”
Although the Magic fought back in the closing minutes to make it interesting, the Thunder took control of this one late in the second quarter, after Brooks called a timeout to talk to his troops. With the game tied at 45 with 3:38 remaining in the half, the Thunder went on an 11-1 run to build a lead that would eventually swell to 16 points. Kevin Durant started the burst with two free throws, then knocked down consecutive jumpers within ten feet to build a six-point margin. Kendrick Perkins followed up a miss and got fouled, hitting both free throws, before Durant nailed a three-pointer thanks to a Perkins screen and Westbrook assist to make it 56-46 Thunder with 29.9 seconds left in the half.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins close out on a long jump shot forcing a bad miss. Excellent individual defense by Jeremy Lamb to force a difficult missed shot on the baseline. Incredible helpside instincts by Steven Adams to come over and save a basket with a block. Lamb smartly recognizes the two-for-one opportunity and drains a three-pointer. Nice early post up by Adams to initiate quick offense in transition. Derek Fisher stays solid and draws a charge in transition. Perfect screen by Perkins and execution by Westbrook to hit Durant for a three-pointer.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Solid post defense by Perkins to force a difficult missed shot on the baseline. Wonderful ball movement by all five starters to get a wide open look, even if it didn’t go down. Westbrook and Durant get back in transition to force a missed layup. Great physicality against a bigger player by Reggie Jackson to defend in the post and force a difficult miss. Good activity by Nick Collison to help and recover then box out for a rebound. Fisher fights around a screen to force Orlando into an offensive foul.
“They kept fighting until the end. We had some tough breaks but I’m glad we fought it out and got a win. They made a couple of runs but we were able to take their punch and keep pushing.” - forward Kevin Durant