7 Rebounds for Reggie Jackson, who also scored 11 points to lead the bench
8 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots
9 Lead changes in the game, which also featured 10 ties
11 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, who also made three assists and two steals while extending his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 41 straight
12 Turnovers for each team in the game, leading to eight points off turnovers apiece
19 Second chance points for the Thunder, where it shot 6-for-9
71 Combined points for Kevin Durant (38) and Russell Westbrook (33) on a combined 25-for-54 shooting
April 6th, 2014
PHOENIX – Early on it was at the rim, then late the perimeter became the problem for the Thunder.
In a 122-115 loss on the road against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club got mostly what it wanted on the offensive end, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score 71 points. Defense was the issue, as the Thunder allowed 58.4 percent shooting, including an 11-for-23 mark from the three-point line. In the first quarter alone the Suns scored 16 points in the paint, which then opened things up throughout the evening. Late in the contest, the Thunder wasn’t able to string together enough stops against the hot-shooting Suns to come away victorious.
“They made some tough shots,” Westbrook said. “We gave them a lot of easy points too. We just gave them easy shots, so that the ones that look tough become easy to them.”
The Suns built a 14-point lead in the third quarter, but an excellent show of resiliency by the Thunder turned the tables at the end of the period and throughout most of the fourth quarter. The defense tightened up and the offense flowed more smoothly as Brooks’ squad eventually clawed back to take a 110-108 lead with three minutes remaining.
Reggie Jackson’s defense in particular in the fourth quarter was superb, as he held the previously troublesome Goran Dragic to just one point and zero shot attempts in 12 fourth quarter minutes. Unfortunately, the Thunder put the Suns into the bonus early by fouling five times before the 9:30 mark of the fourth quarter, putting the team behind the eight ball the rest of the way in terms of how physically it could play on defense.
“We got ourselves back in the game and then we figured out too late what we needed to do and they made some big shots,” Westbrook explained. “We were just defending. We made them miss. We were aggressive defensively and when we got into the penalty, it was tough for us to be more aggressive.”
Behind the attacking style of Westbrook, who ended up with 33 points and eight assists, the Thunder charged back. Paired with Westbrook’s aggression was the sublime scoring touch of Durant, who extended his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 41 by scoring 38 and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The duo led the charge that willed the Thunder back into this one, but a late turnover on offense and an inability to grab a crucial loose ball rebound was the difference in this one as the Suns sealed their win with nine straight free throws to end the game.
“Tonight when we were down 14, I knew that we were going to keep fighting,” Brooks said. “We had a chance to go up a couple of points at the end of the game, and we didn’t make some shots that we could have made. Defensively when we had to get a stop, we didn’t come up to the plate and get that stop.”
This loss puts the Thunder at 55-21 on the year, but also gives the team some more material to work on over the coming weeks as the regular season winds down. The Western Conference is filled with teams much like the Suns who like to break teams down in the pick-and-roll, attack the rim and then kick out to three-point shooters, particularly in the corner. Moving forward, the Thunder wants to clamp down on those types of attacks in the paint that lead to open shooters.
“We don’t want to come off of the corner,” Brooks said. “They roll hard and they penetrate, so they get you in a position where you have to make sure you’re stopping the ball first. We didn’t get out to their shooters. Those are all correctable things, which we’ve done well all year. We just had some bad moments tonight.”
The Thunder battled back from a 14-point deficit to take a two point lead at 110-108 with just 3:49 remaining in the game, and even held a one-point edge at 112-111 with 2:39 remaining, but a 10-0 Suns run to close out the ensuing two minutes sealed the Thunder’s fate. The Suns burst started with a Markieff Morris driving layup followed up by two free throws. Down by three, the Thunder turned the ball over but Russell Westbrook hustled down court and made a basket-saving block. The ball squirted away and found itself in PJ Tucker’s hands. On the Thunder’s side of the ball, missed shots and two turnovers prevented any comeback try as Tucker and Eric Bledsoe knocked down six straight free throws to end the game.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Russell Westbrook does a nice job of chasing Goran Dragic around multiple screens to prevent passes. Great awareness by Kendrick Perkins to kick out an offensive rebound, helping get the Thunder another possession and a Westbrook layup. Excellent patience by Fisher to take a dribble and delayed drive to dump it off to Ibaka. Heads up play by Nick Collison to intercept a lob pass heading to the baseline. Derek Fisher and Collison dive on the floor and help the Thunder force a jump ball. Fisher steps in and takes a charge on a driver. Nice helpside defense in the post by Kevin Durant to deter an entry pass.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice cut underneath the rim by Westbrook to free himself up for an in-bounds pass and a layup. Well executed play frees up Durant at the top of the key for an open three-pointer. Ibaka battles under the defensive glass to wrestle away a rebound from two Suns players. Excellent man-to-man defense by Jackson to keep his man in front and force a tough miss. Incredible hustle on defense by Durant to slap the ball away then dive on it for a jump ball.
They made plays and we didn’t. We fouled them and they got to the free throw line. They put us in bad positions and they hit some three’s too. They’re a tough team to stop. - forward Kevin Durant