3 Steals for Jeremy Lamb, who also scored seven of the bench’s 28 points on the night
9 Assists for Reggie Jackson, in addition to 20 points, three rebounds and two steals
12 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, tying a season-high, in addition to six points and two assists
14-2 Advantage for the Thunder in fast break points on the night
25 Combined points for Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha, in addition to eight rebounds and four assists
26 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to nine rebounds and seven assists
49-39 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, who racked up 19 offensive boards
Feb. 5th, 2014
During a four-minute stretch Wednesday night, the Thunder’s defense was stifling and offensive clicking. That 12-2 burst in the fourth quarter was enough to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-97 but also gave the team a chance to continually re-dedicate itself to its defensive principles.
The energy and effort was there, but the execution was not quite perfect throughout the night as the two teams battled through five lead changes and 11 ties throughout the night. Both teams shot above 47 percent on the evening and the Thunder allowed more points off turnovers and second chance points than it would like. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club did buckle down during two crucial stretches, once in the first quarter and then to start the fourth quarter when the team really broke things open as the Thunder went on another 12-2 run.
“The first three or four minutes of that fourth quarter gave us a chance to win this game,” Brooks said. “It’s something that we have to keep working on. We played defense in the first quarter for the last four-or-five minutes and then that stretch in the fourth quarter we did.”
Not surprisingly, the Thunder’s burst started because of its commitment to the defensive end as it forced two key turnovers and no more than one shot on each possession. In fact, the Thunder allowed only two offensive rebounds in the final quarter of play, both coming after the crucial spurt. Defense always starts at the top of the floor, as Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher played strong against Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea in the final frame, and their teammates backed them up with cohesion and unity in their rotations.
“It was just better communication and more defensive pride,” Jackson said. “Most importantly, something in the first half that we didn’t do so well, was keeping them off the offensive glass. I think we kind of tuned in and decided we wanted to win this ball game tonight.”
The Thunder’s third-year point guard was also a catalyst on the offensive end for the Thunder, as he racked up 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting while dishing out nine assists to just one turnover on the night. Fellow ball-handler Kevin Durant had a game-high 26 points in addition to seven assists, helping to get the ball into the hands of open teammates like Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher, who combined to score 39 points.
Durant was also a force on the boards, as he, Kendrick Perkins, Ibaka and Sefolosha combined to grab 34 of the Thunder’s 49 rebounds, where it outpaced Minnesota by ten. When the Thunder got stops, particularly in the second half, it made sure to get a body on a Timberwolves player and then get a quick outlet pass to score in transition.
Jackson, who hit Durant with an expert one-handed bounce pass on a fast break, was key in setting up his teammates as the Thunder outscored Minnesota 14-2 in fast break points. When Jackson plays with poise, protects the basketball and finds teammates through his aggressive attacking style, it adds an extra dimension to the Thunder’s offensive flow.
“(Jackson) did a good job getting us in sets and finding open players, open teammates,” Brooks said.
“I think Reggie did a great job finding guys and making the right plays,” Durant said. “He was definitely aggressive trying to get to the rim and shooting the thing as well. He played well tonight and, like I said, on offense we fed off him. Myself, I just tried to make the right plays as well.”
A 14-2 run after a timeout in the middle of the first quarter helped spark the Thunder early on, but it was a momentum shifting and somewhat bizarre play to end the third quarter that initiated a game-changing Thunder run.
With the game tied at 77, Derek Fisher launched a corner three-pointer as the seconds dripped off the third quarter clock, and after it caromed off the rim, Timberwolves’ center Gorgui Dieng goaltended it, giving the Thunder three points and an 80-77 lead. Out of the quarter break, Brooks ran a play for Jeremy Lamb, who knocked down a three-pointer.
After a Minnesota bucket, Reggie Jackson found Perry Jones for a dunk, then the Thunder forced two consecutive turnovers, leading to a Jackson layup and a Fisher jump shot coming off a curl to give the Thunder an 89-79 lead with 9:08 remaining. The 12-2 burst helped break the game open for the Thunder and propelled it to victory.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Nice pump-fake by Thabo Sefolosha in the corner to draw his man, then blow by him for a bucket. Sefolosha hustles back in transition defense to slap the ball away from behind and stop a sure layup. Incredible one-handed bounce pass in transition from Reggie Jackson to Kevin Durant gets the Thunder an easy bucket. Beautiful back-door cut by Perry Jones and a slick find by Nick Collison to get an easy dunk. A hustling Kendrick Perkins follows up his own miss to get an offensive rebound and draw a foul. Beautiful play as Jackson slips the screen he set for Durant and Perkins finds him at the rim.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Sefolosha fights underneath the rim to rip the ball away from another player, creating a second look at the rim for the Thunder. Beautiful play design out of the timeout by Coach Brooks to get Durant a backdoor cut and look at the rim. Perfect passing from Collison to Jackson to Jones for an easy bucket in the lane. The Thunder’s defense slides and rotates into position to force a turnover. Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball and draws a jump ball. Jackson hustles back into transition to steal a lob pass. Sefolosha dives on the ball and then draws a foul on a big late-game possession.
“Everybody played well. Steven Adams played well. Fish did a great job for us and is always consistent. Thabo played well. Jeremy, even though it wasn’t a good night shooting for him he still competed…Perry… You can name everybody. It took a team effort and we were fortunate enough to win tonight.” - guard Reggie Jackson