9 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, who held Dwight Howard to 4-for-13 shooting
15-6 The Thunder’s edge in points off turnovers
18-10 Difference in fast break points in the Thunder’s favor
22 Points for Jeremy Lamb, a career-high, on 8-for-10 shooting from the field
33 Points for Kevin Durant on 11-for-17 shooting, in addition to 13 rebounds and five assists
49-38 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, who snagged 45 defensive rebounds, a season-high
57.3-36.5 Difference in shooting percentages in the Thunder’s favor
Dec. 29th, 2013
Minute after minute dropped off the game clock as the Thunder kept getting stronger and stronger. For six-and-a-half beautiful minutes to start the game, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club held the Houston Rockets to zero points on 0-for-12 shooting while bursting out to a 13-0 lead, eventually resulting in a 117-86 wire-to-wire victory.
Right from the jump, the Thunder’s focus, determination and concentration was evident as Houston struggled to find anything resembling a clean look at the rim thanks to the Thunder’s stifling defense. On offense the Thunder was equally as precise, locking in to find high-percentage shots on nearly every possession.
“We came out with the right intensity,” Perkins said. “We did what we were supposed to do, which was come out and jump out them early.”
At every turn, the Thunder’s defense was contesting shots, forcing Rockets into undesired spots on the floor and generally making offense difficult for Houston. On the night the Thunder held its opponents to just 36.5 percent shooting as Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha kept Jeremy Lin and James Harden out of the lane and forced the Rockets to take long, contested shots. The usually hot-shooting Rockets made just 7-of-28 three-point attempts and even when they did get into the lane, the Thunder stymied them by forcing them to shoot 23-for-48 from the paint.
“Defensively our guys really locked in,” Brooks said. “We set the tone of the basketball game on the defensive end.”
“Our guys really got into the basketball,” Brooks continued. “They got into the jump shot, they got into the pass and they did a good job of blocking out.”
A crucial aspect of the Thunder’s defense was its ability to get back in transition defense, an area the Thunder has looked to improve upon over the past two months of the young season. Houston typically likes to get out in the open floor to initiate offense before their opponent’s defense is set, but Brooks’ club didn’t allow that to come to fruition. In fact, the Rockets didn’t score a single fast break point the whole first half, and only allowed four shot attempts in transition throughout the entire game.
The effort began with the Thunder continually getting positive offensive possessions that resulted in Houston having to take the basketball out of the rim as the Thunder connected on 57.3 percent of its shots. With everyone spacing the floor correctly and operating within the flow of the offense, the Thunder also had correct court balance to get back and show a wall of defenders in transition.
“We were getting great shots on the offensive end and then everybody mentally locking in and staying focused on getting back and crowding the paint,” Jackson said. “We were corralling the ball handler but also being conscious of where our man was.”
“We just put a big emphasis on it yesterday in film,” Durant said. “We wanted to make sure we stopped those guys and also build out to the three-point line. We have to do a better job of it, but tonight was a step in the right direction.”
From an individual perspective, Kevin Durant’s 33 points on 11-for-17 shooting, Jeremy Lamb’s career-high 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting and Reggie Jackson’s 16-point, eight-assist, zero-turnover night were the offensive highlights in this one. On defense Kendrick Perkins’ patrolling of the paint with nine rebounds and stout defense helped contain Dwight Howard to just 4-for-13 shooting was an important tone-setter. The individual efforts of every man who saw the floor added together to make a full team victory as the Thunder moves to 25-5 on the year.
“We always want to play off of our defense,” Durant explained. “You have to give credit to Perk and Serge on doing a great job in the interior and point guards and wings on containing the ball.”
“We count on Perk to play one-on-one,” Jackson said. “He did a great job. That’s a challenge that he wanted and accepted. That allowed us to really limit their open three-point attempts.”
The Thunder used two huge bursts to take control of this wire-to-wire victory. A 13-0 Thunder run to start the game gave the Thunder all the momentum. It started with two Kevin Durant free throws, a mid-range jumper and a three-pointer by Thabo Sefolosha and then a jumper by Durant. Serge Ibaka then hit a jumper which Reggie Jackson followed with a layup. The true force behind the run, however, was the Thunder’s defense, which forced twelve straight missed shots and no points for the first 6:35 of game action.
“Being a part of it, especially being on the court at the time, is an experience few get to feel,” Jackson said. “It’s great to be a part of those runs.”
The second burst happened when the Rockets closed the Thunder gap to single digits at 56-47 right after halftime. Over a three-minute span, however, the Thunder went on a 15-0 run that saw the Rockets miss three straight shots then make three straight turnovers. On offense, Jackson made three straight assists, hitting Durant for a three-pointer, Ibaka for a layup and Kendrick Perkins for a jumper. Durant then returned the favor as he found Jackson for three before Jackson dropped a pass off for Ibaka to slam home a fast break dunk. To conclude the run, Durant made a slick move at the top of the key, banging home a step-back three-pointer and giving the Thunder a 71-47 lead.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kendrick Perkins expertly defends Dwight Howard in the post with toughness and quick feet to force a turnover. Slick pump fake by Thabo Sefolosha to free himself up from a jumper. Perkins knocks an entry pass away to disrupt a Rockets possession. Smart foul by Reggie Jackson underneath to prevent a sure dunk. Unbelievable outlet pass by Serge Ibaka after a block frees up Sefolosha for a wide-open dunk. Sefolosha hustles over a screen to slap the ball away on a wing pass. Great hustle by Perry Jones and Kevin Durant to dive on the floor for a loose ball, forcing a jump ball.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice work by Jackson to peel back to the defensive glass and slap the ball out of Dwight Howard’s hands. Strong interior defense by Perkins forces another difficult missed shot and an easy Thunder run-out. Smart pitch-ahead pass by Durant gets a three-on-one fast break for the Thunder, earning a Jackson to Ibaka slam dunk. Nice box out by Ibaka to free up Nick Collison for a defensive board. Durant gives Perry Jones a few words of encouragement at a stoppage in play. Derek Fisher fronts a screen against a much bigger man to force a turnover.
“We played well and everybody stepped up and did their job tonight. We just want to come out and play hard, play for one another and win games. That’s what we were able to do tonight and we have to carry that on and keep playing that way.” - guard Thabo Sefolosha