PiSTONS 111
THUNDER 112
6 Steals for Russell Westbrook, tying the mark for the most by an individual on the Thunder this season

15 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka to go with 10 points and six blocks

17 Turnovers forced by the Thunder’s defense, which led to 25 points

20-3 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points on the night

24 Offensive rebounds by the Thunder, a season-high, leading to 19 second chance points

26 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 15 from Reggie Jackson

33-24 The Thunder’s scoring advantage in the fourth quarter, when it forced Detroit into 43.5 percent shooting and four turnovers.

42 Points for Kevin Durant, in addition to six assists and four rebounds

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
April 16th, 2014
RECAP:

The Thunder’s largest lead in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night was one point. Turns out, that’s all that was needed.

Defensively, the Thunder didn’t perform up to its standards throughout most of its thrilling 112-111 victory over the Detroit Pistons in the final game of the regular season. In the closing two minutes, however, the Thunder made the plays it needed, holding Detroit scoreless on five straight possessions to conclude the game.

The embodiment of the Thunder’s ability to shrug off a seven-point deficit with just over three minutes to play, and a five-point deficit with just two minutes left, was the effort Derek Fisher displayed on three straight late possessions. The first came on a loose rebound after a Pistons missed shot, when Fisher kept the play alive with his hustle, leading to Russell Westbrook snagging it and getting fouled for two critical free throws. The next came when Fisher, the shortest player on the floor, leapt up to block a layup attempt at the rim, as the 18-year NBA veteran swatted athletic rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The last came on the Pistons final possession, after Durant put the Thunder ahead for the first time in the fourth quarter on a driving layup with 16.5 seconds left. Fisher dug down and slapped at the ball, then dove on the floor to keep the ball alive, dropping precious seconds off the clock and giving Durant time to dive on it for a jump-ball. Those three players were a microcosm of the effort Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club displayed in that fourth quarter, when it outscored Detroit 33-24.

“Fisher had three plays that were championship-level,” Brooks said. “He had a block at the rim. I don’t know how he did it… Just winning basketball plays that we talk to our team about every day. He did three of them in the last minute to win this game tonight.

“Whenever (coach Brooks) trusts me to put me in those situations, I just try to impact the game in a positive way,” Fisher said. “Sometimes it’ll be a big shot. Other times it’s just making a play to help us win. I never would have guessed it would have been a blocked shot at the rim. For sure not that. But it was just me trying to do what I could to help us win.”

What Fisher did on the defensive end was matched by Russell Westbrook, who snagged six steals and Serge Ibaka, who racked up six blocks and 15 rebounds. The Thunder also needed a boost on offense in the fourth quarter, as Durant racked up 21 of his 42 points in the final 12 minutes. It’s outside shots weren’t falling, so the Thunder attacked the rim repeatedly, scoring 22 of its 33 fourth quarter points in the paint, and the other 11 at the free throw line.

“My shot wasn’t falling, so I just tried to get as close as I could and be aggressive and not worry about a whistle,” Durant explained. “I got what I wanted down there going to the rim. I just tried to finish and my teammates put me in great positions.”

Even though the execution wasn’t perfect on both ends of the floor tonight, the Thunder did what it had to in order to get an important win in the 82nd and final game of the regular season. The victory put the Thunder’s final record at 59-23, good for second best in the NBA, and the second seed in the Western Conference Playoff picture. A 20-3 edge in fast break points, a season-best 24 offensive rebounds and contributions from every man on the roster, even facing an 11-point deficit, made the difference in this one.

“It was just us staying together,” Butler said. “We could have easily splintered, but we stayed together and we just kept the “W’, that’s all it was about, getting that “W”. Everybody contributed.”

“Even though it was a game we didn’t necessarily think would end that way, I think it was great for us to experience some adversity,” Fisher said. “There were a lot of times we could have just packed it in because it was too much energy to win this game, but we figured it out.”

“It’s going to be like that all playoffs,” Westbrook explained. “You never know, one possession can change the whole concept of the game. Tonight was one of those nights.”

TURNING POINT:

The game turned with the Thunder down by seven at 109-102 with 3:17 remaining, as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club outscored Detroit 10-2 the rest of the way. The burst started with a nice feed from Thabo Sefolosha to Derek Fisher on an in-bounds pass underneath the rim, then continued with a Russell Westbrook driving layup after the defense forced a badly missed Pistons three-pointer.

Detroit’s Brandon Jennings hit two free throws, but the Thunder rattled off six straight points to close out the win. The first two came on a Kevin Durant fast break layup off a Westbrook dish, then Westbrook made two free throws. Derek Fisher then blocked a layup attempt at the rim and the Thunder forced a turnover before Durant drove left for a game-winning layup with 16.5 seconds remaining. Fisher and Durant then scrapped for a loose ball, forcing a jump ball and a Pistons missed shot to seal the win.

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

Amazing hesitation move in transition by Russell Westbrook to bait two defenders before he dropped off a pass to Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka then disrupt a Pistons possession by slapping the ball out of bounds twice. Westbrook stays alert and tracks down a loose defensive rebound off a missed free throw. Good box out by Nick Collison to force an offensive foul. Reggie Jackson hustles to track down a loose offensive rebound. Westbrook slides in and takes a charge to force a Detroit turnover. Pretty back-door pass by Durant to Westbrook.

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

Great hustle by Sefolosha to dive out of bounds and save a loose ball. Excellent non-verbal communication between Sefolosha and Ibaka to hook up on a transition lob pass. Nice pick by Kendrick Perkins in the lane to free up a driving lane for Ibaka. Collison flies out of bounds, saving a loose ball in bounds. Excellent individual post defense by Ibaka to force a bad miss. Jackson tips a pass to prevent a backdoor pass. Well-run in-bounds play to get Fisher an easy layup. Incredible hustle by Fisher and Westbrook to scramble for a loose ball and draw a foul. Nice off-ball defense by Sefolosha to force a turnover. Fisher and Durant dive on the floor for a loose ball to force a jump ball.



“We just figured it out and got it done. It wasn’t the best game. We didn’t play well defensively, we didn’t shoot the ball well offensively, but it’s something about just getting it done, having that will power and having that fight in you no matter what. Through a tough game we persevered and got a good win.” - forward Kevin Durant

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