Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs. Rockets
3-for-7 Caron Butler’s shooting numbers from three-point range, part of his 11 point to lead the bench unit to 26 total points
4-for-12 Shooting numbers the Thunder held Rockets’ big man Dwight Howard to on the night
7 Assists for Russell Westbrook, in addition to 24 points, four rebounds and four steals
16 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, his third most of the season, in addition to 12 points and four blocks
27-for-34 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 24-for-30 by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
30-17 The Thunder’s scoring advantage in the second quarter
41.8 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Rockets to on the night
42 Points for Kevin Durant on 12-for-22 shooting, who also racked up five rebounds, four assists and a block
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
March 11th, 2014
If ever there was a Thunder win personified by togetherness, it happened on Tuesday night.
In a 106-98 win over the Houston Rockets at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad used a 17-4 burst in the second quarter and parried a number of late pushes in front of a raucous home crowd to emerge victorious. From the start, the Thunder’s intensity, focus and teamwork was oozing from its play, with teammates communicating, encouraging one another and executing on both ends. The area of focus heading into the night was defense, and possession after possession, the Thunder stayed in front of their man, rotated and closed out on shooters.
“(The energy) was good from the beginning,” forward Kevin Durant said. “Once we lock in and focus in on what we’re supposed to do from the beginning, we’re a pretty good team on the defensive end. Everybody did a great job knowing their matchup and playing within the team’s concepts.”
“We stayed in front of our man for the most part and we helped each other out a lot,” Durant explained. “We made them shoot tough shots.”
On the night, the Thunder held the Rockets to just 41.8 percent shooting, while out-rebounding Houston and continually forcing them into tough shots. Down the stretch, the Thunder was tested with game pressure as Houston chipped the lead to five on two separate occasions, but five free throws from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, along with a Durant jumper and an Ibaka hook shot sealed a Thunder victory.
On defense, a unit of Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Caron Butler and Derek Fisher stuck together and ground out a victory by forcing a couple missed shots late. The key for the squad was how it executed on both ends of the floor.
“It was just staying on a string defensively,” Butler said. “Our rotations were solid and then putting the ball in our two superstars hands and letting them create and be great.”
“We stayed calm,” Durant explained. “We stayed poised. We’re a veteran group. That’s what we did. (Butler) hit some big shots. Serge hit some big ones. We got to the free throw line and were aggressive.”
It was a high-intensity affair with a lot of whistles, as the Thunder knocked down 27-of-34 free throw attempts, accounting for 24 of Durant and Westbrook’s combined 66 points. Westbrook had 24 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals as he sparked the Thunder’s big burst in the second quarter by scoring 11 of the Thunder’s 30 in the period on his own.
Durant was sensational in his own right, scoring a cool 42 on 12-for-22 shooting, including multiple three pointers. In the second half alone, Durant scored 25 points on 7-for-13 shooting, including 4-for-5 from three-point range and 7-for-8 from the free throw stripe.
On the other end of the floor, Ibaka was a major factor, snatching up a game-high 16 rebounds in addition to 12 points, while defending Dwight Howard in the closing minutes of the game. On the night, Steven Adams, Hasheem Thabeet and Nick Collison all drew Howard as a defensive assignment, and each man held firm, forcing the Rockets big man into a 4-for-12 shooting night and just nine points.
By trusting their big men to handle Howard one-on-one in the post, Thunder perimeter defenders stayed at home and were able to contest nearly all of the Rockets’ 79 shot attempts on the night. Those stops led to easy looks for the Thunder on the other end, and led to a hard-earned home win.
“Defensively I thought we did a great job of just locking in for four quarters and doing a great job of stopping them,” Westbrook said. “We did a great job of being patient, getting what we wanted and the shots we needed.”
“Steven did a great job,” Durant said. “Serge, Nick and Hash did a great job of making it tough on him. Those guys played physical with him and frustrated him. We went at him on the other end as well and tried to get him some fouls as well. It was a collective effort.”
The game turned in the second quarter, when the Thunder led by just four at 32-28 with 8:31 remaining in the half. Over a five minute stretch, the Thunder would outscore Houston 17-4, building itself a 49-32 lead with 3:46 remaining. The burst was created because of the Thunder’s defense, which forced the Rockets into 2-for-7 shooting plus a turnover during the burst.
Reggie Jackson hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to kick-start the run, then he dished to Caron Butler for a three-pointer. Russell Westbrook got to the basekt for a layup, then he found Jackson for a three-pointer on the wing. Westbrook then scored on a free throw, a driving layup ad a three-pointer before Houston had to call timeout.
In the quarter, the Thunder held Houston to just 6-for-16 shooting while outrebounding the Rockets by seven and forcing five turnovers. Westbrook had 11 points in the quarter, and the Thunder’s bench outscored Houston’s 12 to three.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Nice pick-and-roll rotations by the Thunder defense forces a pass into traffic and a turnover. Steven Adams hustles back on defense and gets a fingertip on a shot to force a missed dunk. Excellent ball movement results in an easy short corner jumper for Caron Butler. Great help and recover defense forces Houston into a tough spot and a three-second violation. Reggie Jackson challenges at the top of the pick-and-roll, forcing a turnover. Strong on-ball screen by Kevin Durant to free up Jackson for a jumper. Russell Westbrook defends strongly in the post to tip away an entry pass. Incredible rotation
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Well executed screen and roll between Westbrook and Durant to get the latter freed up for an open jumper. Derek Fisher dives for a loose ball and it goes out of bounds off of a Rockets player. Butler helps over and slaps the ball off of a Rockets’ player’s knee and out of bounds. Butler’s superb on-ball defense forces the ball out of bounds. Strong box out by Serge Ibaka to clear up space for Butler to swoop in and grab the rebound. Beautiful ball movement gets an open look for Ibaka to ice the game.
”We always find a way to stay together and stick through what we believe in. That is what good teams do, whether you lose a few games or you win a few games; you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. It’s a long season, and I am proud of our guys fighting back right from the start.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks