11 Assists for Reggie Jackson, a career-high and a part of his second career double-double with 16 points
14-10 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points, as it held the Nuggets to just five transition field goal attempts
21 Turnovers forced by the Thunder, leading to 18 points
23 Points for Caron Butler, the most he’s scored as a member of the Thunder
27 Points for Kevin Durant, extending his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 35, while he also had eight assists and four rebounds
47-25 Advantage in bench points for the Thunder, aided by ten from Nick Collison
50.6-39.0 The Thunder’s edge in shooting percentage on the night
March 24th, 2014
Just like Kevin Durant’s hesitation cross-over dribble and three-point play that thrilled the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd, the Thunder played with tempo and hit the Denver Nuggets with a tough combination.
Monday night’s 117-96 victory for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club was emphatic from the start when the Thunder rattled off a season-high-tying 41 first quarter points and a season high 72 in the first half thanks to precise and quick offense. In the second half, the Thunder’s defense clamped down to hold Denver to just 15 third quarter points and from there, the rout was on and the team could cruise to victory in the first night of a back-to-back.
Led by Kevin Durant’s 27 points and Reggie Jackson’s second career double-double of 16 points and 11 assists, the Thunder’s one-two punch of forceful offense and cohesive defense paved the way to victory.
“We just got some defensive stops, gout out into transition and got some easy baskets,” Jackson said. “We got some good looks. Shots were falling so hopefully we can keep this up.”
“It’s good for us to get wins like this and for everybody to be playing well,” Jackson continued. “We’re just trying to play within the offense and figure things out going into these Playoffs.”
After using a 31-9 burst to end the first quarter to build a 19-point lead, the Nuggets rattled off a 12-0 burst of their own to cut the deficit to just seven early in the second quarter. By halftime, the Thunder led by 14, then suffocated Denver in the third quarter with its defense. By forcing 21 turnovers and only allowing Denver to shoot 39 percent and score 10 fast break points, Brooks’ club took away all of the avenues by which the Nuggets get easy buckets, effectively blocking any path to making the game competitive in the fourth quarter.
“It was getting back with all five guys,” Brooks explained. “Get back, get to the paint and stop them from scoring early. That helped our pick-and-roll defense in that second half. We were able to get out to the shooters and we closed out better.”
Part of the key to the Thunder’s defensive success could be attributed to how well its offense flowed. With 19 first half assists and 32 total, Brooks’ club whipped the ball around the perimeter and into the paint on its way to 50.6 percent shooting, including 11-for-22 shooting. While Durant extended his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 35, just five shy of Michael Jordan’s modern record of 40, five other Thunder players scored in double figures as well. The attention to detail was evident on the offensive end, thanks to Jackson’s career-high 11 assists and the tempo with which he orchestrated each possession.
“It was simply just getting into our sets and getting to our spots on the floor,” Jackson explained. “No matter if we called a play or not, just understanding that the ball needs to move from side to side, then you can attack gaps. We had guys being okay with hockey assists, so I’m pretty happy with tonight’s performance.”
“(Jackson) has played well as a starter and well as a guy coming off the bench,” Brooks said. “Tonight’s game was one of his better floor games. He really got the guys involved and got them good looks with 11 assists. He had opportunities to get to the free throw line so that was good, and his three-point shot has improved.”
While Jackson was busy dropping off passes to teammates Serge Ibaka, who scored 15 points, the duo of Nick Collison and Steven Adams had ten points apiece, with the rookie center Adams racking up a career-high and Thunder team-high six steals. The Thunder’s bench outscored Denver’s by a tally of 47-25, and most of that work was done by Caron Butler, who scored 23, the most since he joined the Thunder.
On an array of post moves, spot up jumpers and isolation plays, Butler made the most of his opportunities to attack the defense. The long-time veteran has been a welcome addition to the Thunder due to his ability to post up smaller defenders on offense and defend guards who like to post up on the other end of the floor.
“One of the things that we like about him is his toughness on both ends of the floor,” Brooks said. “He’s been making shots his entire career. You have to guard our other guys on the team, so it gives him opportunities to play one-on-one, and we like the matchup that he presents for us down there. Defensively, he’s going to continue to learn what we do and get better as the season winds down.”
The Thunder broke this one open with a 31-9 scoring burst over the final seven minutes of the first quarter. The Nuggets led 13-10 with 6:58 remaining in the contest, but the Thunder’s offense revved up to another level and the team defense was solid throughout the final minutes of the period.
The burst started with a Caron Butler three-pointer off a pass from Reggie Jackson, then continued with three more threes including one from Kevin Durant sandwiched between two from Jackson. Meanwhile, the Thunder’s defense forced Denver into four straight missed shots before allowing two buckets. Ibaka then scored on a dunk and a jumper in the lane before Durant followed it up with a driving layup. Jackson then made a steal and was fouled by Lawson with a clear path to the rim.
Coming out of a timeout, Jackson made both free throws, then Butler hit a jumper and a three-pointer, both off of assists to make the score 35-22 Thunder. The burst ended with a Derek Fisher three-pointer and a Kevin Durant three-point play off of a running bank shot to make it 41-22 Thunder with 37 seconds left in the quarter. During the stretch, the Thunder’s defense forced two turnovers and nine missed shots.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Great hustle on two consecutive possessions by Andre Roberson to get out and contest a shot to force misses. Nice communication by Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant to match up with Nuggets players in transition. Beautiful passing in the lane by Jackson and Serge Ibaka to get Durant a wide open corner three-pointer. Jackson flies back in transition defense to intercept a lob. Good box out by Perry Jones to free up a teammate to get a rebound. Jackson slaps away an entry pass, leading to a Thunder fast break.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Roberson deflects the ball out of an opponent’s hand in help-side defense to start a Thunder transition opportunity, then he tracks down a loose rebound by outhustling his man. Excellent team defense by the Thunder to force a shot clock violation. Excellent pick-and-roll defense by Steven Adams to stay low and deflect a ball. Strong defense by Nick Collison to keep his feet moving then slap the ball off his opponent and out of bounds. Good closeout by Caron Butler forces a travel. Slick play by Jeremy Lamb to slap a rebound out of an opponent’s hand, starting a Thunder fast break.
“I like the way we came out offensively in that first quarter. Our spacing, our cutting, our screening and our passing was outstanding. We moved the basketball with ten assists on the first 15 baskets made. In the second half, defensively we locked in.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks