Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Rockets
6 Blocked shots for Serge Ibaka, who also had a career-high-tying four assists, along with two steals
7 Assists for Reggie Jackson, in addition to 17 points and seven rebounds
10 Lead changes on the night, plus six ties
11-for-17 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who tied his career-high with 27 points, while making two three-point attempts
28 Points for Kevin Durant, tying Michael Jordan’s modern record of 40 straight games with 25-or-more points
33-16 The Thunder’s edge in bench points, led by 13 from Caron Butler and 12 from Jeremy Lamb
39 Points scored by the Thunder in the third quarter, when it shot 14-for-22 from the field and 6-for-10 from the three-point line
42.3 Field goal shooting percentage the Thunder held the Rockets to on the night
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
April 4th, 2014
HOUSTON – The Thunder returned nearly every salvo headed its way on Friday night, but the Houston Rockets launched the last one, leaving Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club out of time.
In a back-and-forth affair that featured a low scoring, poor-shooting first half and then a hot-shooting, up-tempo third quarter, the Thunder fell to the Rockets 111-107. Despite holding the Rockets to 42.3 percent shooting on the night, Brooks’ club had a hard time keeping Houston off of the foul line. 37 free throw attempts for the Rockets racked up throughout the evening as the Thunder committed 24 fouls. By hitting its final six free throws, the Rockets survived a final onslaught from Kevin Durant, who scored the Thunder’s final seven points on a free throw and two three-pointers.
“I liked our energy and I liked the commitment to coming back after last night’s win with the mindset to win the game,” Brooks said. “I thought our guys were good. We had some good performances, but we just fouled too many times.”
After falling behind by ten points in the first three minutes of the game, the Thunder clawed back, eventually building an eight-point advantage in the third quarter. Much of the credit for that relentlessness goes to Serge Ibaka, who tied career-highs in both points and assists with 27 and four, respectively. The Congolese forward shot 11-for-17 from the field, while also impacting the game on the glass with nine rebounds and on defense with six blocks and two steals. Seemingly everywhere at once, Ibaka helped keep the Thunder in this one until the very end.
“Serge has really stepped up this year and made some improvements, not only as a player but in his understanding of the game,” Brooks explained. “Give him a lot of credit. He comes in and does the work every day. He had a really impactful game on both ends of the floor.”
“He always plays with unbelievable spirit and pride out there,” forward Caron Butler said. “He brings it night-in and night-out on the defensive end and it translates on the offensive end for him as well.”
Ibaka was one of five Thunder players in double figures, as Reggie Jackson chipped in 17 and the bench accounted for 33 points, led by Caron Butler and Jeremy Lamb with 13 and 12 apiece. Durant led his team once again, however, with 28 point, 12 rebounds and six assists. The effort helped him tie Michael Jordan’s mark of 40 consecutive games with 25-or-more points scored, the longest streak since Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson put together longer stretches.
Durant’s three-pointer with 1:01 remaining pulled the Thunder to within one point at 105-104 and doubled as the bucket that gave him 25 points yet again. The streak was the furthest thing from his mind, as Durant’s sole focus and goal throughout the night, including that moment, was trying to find a way to help his team win. The Thunder came up short as a unit tonight, but Durant and his teammates showed resiliency and fight for 48 minutes.
“It made it a one possession game and we had a chance to win, that’s all I was worried about,” Durant said.
“Kevin is an amazing player,” Brooks said. “I love him as a person. He’s a phenomenal teammate. The best thing about him, is that he doesn’t care about the streak. He’s going to score a ton of points in the next 15 years in this league. He just cares about winning.”
The Thunder led by a score of 98-97 with 5:29 remaining in the game, but a 7-0 run by the Rockets turned the tide and gave Houston enough breathing room to win. The run started on three made free throws by Chandler Parsons, then after a Thunder miss and then a turnover, James Harden made a free throw. Two more missed Thunder shots later gave Houston a chance to find Francisco Garcia, for a three-pointer, putting the Rockets up 104-98 with just 2:42 remaining in the game. The Thunder would pull back within one, but six consecutive made free throws by Houston ended the game.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Andre Roberson and Kevin Durant use their length to deflect a pass out to the wing to disrupt a possession. Excellent closeouts on the perimeter by Durant and Reggie Jackson to force misses. Nick Collison steps into the lane and draws an offensive foul to force a turnover. Incredible work near the rim by Serge Ibaka on multiple possessions in a row to deter shots and force misses. Beautiful no-look pass by Jackson to get Ibaka an easy dunk. Durant hustles back in transition defense to tip out a missed layup, starting a Thunder fast break.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Great work down low by Steven Adams to deter an entry pass and force a sloppy possession. Wonderfully-timed pitch-ahead pass by Jackson to get Durant two free throws. Durant displays great unselfishness in transition to make swing the ball and move the defense in transition. Great extra efforts from Durant and Ibaka on defense then a nice job by Jackson to push tempo to help Ibaka draw a foul. Nice team defense by the Thunder to force a shot clock violation.
“We did a good job of just sustaining a couple of blows and a couple of runs that they had. It was just too much at some point. We weren’t getting stops on that end and scoring on this end at the same time. You take it on the chin on the second night of a back-to-back, learn from it and get better.” - forward Caron Butler