THUNDER 105
NUGGETS 93
8 Assists for Russell Westbrook, along with 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting and a season-high 13 rebounds

10 Steals for the Thunder, including seven by the bench

10 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka to go with 17 points, 13 of which came in the first quarter

11-for-23 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who scored 30 points, grabbed six rebounds and added three assists

17-5 The Thunder’s advantage in second chance points thanks to 12 offensive rebounds, and holding Denver to 1-for-11 shooting on offensive rebounds

32 Bench points for the Thunder, led by Jeremy Lamb’s nine points and six rebounds

48.9-41.4 Difference in shooting percentages in the Thunder’s favor

53-43 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, including a +9 mark in the fourth quarter

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Dec. 17th, 2013
RECAP:

DENVER – On the road against a divisional opponent, the Thunder knows its opponent will make a couple of runs. What determines a win or a loss, however, is how the Thunder responds to those pushes.

On Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club withstood a third quarter rally and another fourth quarter charge, only to parry it with a burst of its own, carrying the team to a 105-93 road win. With seven minutes remaining, the Nuggets cut the Thunder’s double-digit lead to just six, when Brooks called timeout and made a subtle adjustment.

By switching on defense between the one-through-four positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward), the Thunder was able to make four stops on five defensive possessions and then come away with points on six straight trips on offense to build an 18-point edge, its largest of the contest. It was that tactical adjustment by Brooks, and the immediate execution by the players on the floor, that fueled the Thunder’s game-sealing run.

“We like to throw that out there every now and then in the game,” Brooks explained. “We feel our athletes can stay in front of the basketball. We want to take teams out of their offense. Our guys did a good job with our switches. We’re a good defensive team because we can guard multiple positions and we can play different styles.”

“We feel as though that unit can guard everybody on the court,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We kept them in front most of the time and we contested shots… That unit, we have to continue to lock in and be ready when we switch.”

Russell Westbrook, Derek Fisher, Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were on the floor for the Thunder’s final fourth quarter stretch, but it was a full team effort that helped the Thunder build a first quarter lead and then gradually extend it throughout the night.

While the Thunder’s defense was once again stout, holding the Nuggets to just 41.4 percent shooting from the field, it was the way Westbrook repeatedly found Ibaka early in the game that opened things up for the Thunder’s offense throughout the night. Off of multiple pick-and-rolls, Ibaka scored the first 11 Thunder points in a myriad of ways, including a drive to the rim, jumpers and free throws. Westbrook racked up four of his eight assists in that first frame by passing out of double teams, setting the tone for the rest of the night.

“Russell did a great job of getting Serge involved early,” Brooks said. “Russell has the ability to get two guys on him. He does a great job of finding open guys. He found Serge for a lot of open shots in the first three or four minutes.”

“Once they put two guys on myself or Kevin, it’s our job to make our other guys better,” Westbrook said.

Ibaka’s offensive burst in the first quarter helped free up Kevin Durant, who notched 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting, in addition to allowing the bench unit to rack up 32 points, getting at least six points from Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher.

It was the Thunder’s All-Pro point guard, however, who controlled the flow of the game all night, as he also added 21 points on 9-for-16 and a personal season-high 13 rebounds. 12 of those boards came on the defensive end thanks to Thunder big men boxing out their opponents, allowing for Westbrook to use his athleticism and instincts to swoop in for the rebound.

Not only does cleaning up the defensive glass help the Thunder prevent second chance points, it also gives the team better looks on offense because it gets the ball in Westbrook’s hands at the very beginning of the shot clock.

“It gives us an opportunity push in the break,” Westbrook explained. “It gets us into our sets a lot quicker, it gives us an opportunity to play with a better pace, it gives me a better rhythm and it’s good for our team.”

TURNING POINT:

The Thunder had to break away from the Nuggets twice, but it was a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter that erased all doubt in the final outcome. Leading 83-77 with 7:15 remaining after a flurry of six straight points by the Nuggets, Head Coach Scott Brooks called a timeout and rallied his troops.

On the first play back, Kevin Durant hit a turnaround jumper, then he made a steal by picking his man’s pocket on a defensive switch. A Westbrook free throw, a defensive stop and a Derek Fisher old-fashioned three-point play gave the Thunder an 89-77 lead, then Durant made a tough fade-away, Russell Westbrook drained a three-pointer and Jeremy Lamb capped the run with a three from the wing. At that point the Thunder’s lead had swelled to 97-79 with 4:28 remaining, putting the game out of reach.

“It was a team effort,” Brooks said. “Everybody chipped in. All of the guys stepped up on the defensive end when we needed it and offensively we moved the ball.”

“Defensively we did a good job of getting back in transition, finding ways to get stops,” Westbrook explained. “Then we did a good job of getting easy baskets.”

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:

Kevin Durant stays active on defense and uses his length to swat a pass away, disrupting a Denver possession. Russell Westbrook directs traffic and gets Serge Ibaka to dive to the rim, drawing a foul. Incredible fight by Ibaka on the offensive glass to grab the ball and draw a foul. Reggie Jackson smartly tips a loose defensive rebound to Nick Collison. Great awareness by Collison to see an entry pass coming and intercept it. Selfless push-ahead pass by Thabo Sefolosha sets up a Jackson to Durant alley-oop.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:

Nice work by Sefolosha to stick with it on the offensive glass to get two offensive rebounds on the same possession. Durant stays alert in helpside defense to slap the ball out of bounds and disrupt a possession. Kendrick Perkins hustles to track down a long offensive rebound and save possession. Collison steps in with perfect timing to draw a foul. Really nice work by Jeremy Lamb on the defensive end to stay active and keep his arms out and deflect a pass. Westbrook huddles up his team to deliver a message before a free throw.



“We did a good job of getting back on defense and keeping the pace where we wanted it to be. We wanted them to run their offense in a half court setting and I thought we did a good job of that.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

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