WARRIORS 112
THUNDER 113
5 Steals for Russell Westbrook, part of eight for the team

5 Assists for Kevin Durant in addition to 25 points and two blocks

9 Blocked shots by the Thunder, led by Serge Ibaka’s four

15-5 Edge in fast break points for the Thunder, where it shot 5-for-6

25 Bench points for the Thunder, led by eight apiece from Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb

26 Combined rebounds for Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka as the Thunder out-rebounded Golden State by two and won the battle of second chance points 18-13

34 Points for Russell Westbrook on the night in addition to seven assists

35-for-42 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including combined 23-for-27 for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Nov. 29th, 2013
RECAP:

Russell Westbrook saw the ball soar from the rim out into the middle of the lane and darted to it instinctively. For what seemed like days, the ball hung in the air until Westbrook tipped it, and then everything seemed to happen instantaneously.

Thabo Sefolosha corralled Westbrook’s tip just long enough to save it, miraculously, to a relocating Westbrook who seemed to teleport into the perfect spot in the corner, with just enough time to launch the game-winning three-pointer. Nothing but net.

The Thunder’s 113-112 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors was a semi-unbelievable affair that featured 20 lead changes and 13 ties throughout the night, with both teams seemingly able to weather runs by both sides. Ultimately, this one came down to Westbrook, Sefolosha and company’s hustle, determination and clutch marksmanship in the final seconds.

“It’s truly a blessing,” Westbrook said. “Thabo did a good job of just saving the basketball. We fought in overtime and I’m thankful that it went in.”

“I just tried to find a way to get my hands on the ball and get a tip-in or tip it to somebody else that is open or get a three,” Westbrook explained. “I was just trying to find a way to win or tie the game.”

“I saw the ball bounce right in front of me, going out of bounds,” Sefolosha said of his crucial save. “I just jumped for it and tried to keep it in play.

There were stretches when both teams played great defense, and others when the offenses couldn’t be stopped, but when it came down to the closing seconds, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad had one more card up its sleeve, as Westbrook’s dagger three-pointer sank into the bucket with just 0.1 seconds remaining, giving the Thunder its sixth straight victory.

“I’m glad we made the extra effort,” Brooks said. “I was just thinking that there were so many good moments and I can’t wait to watch it tonight. I love the game, I love our guys and I love the ffort and those are the reasons we’re all in this.”

Westbrook’s relentlessness was highlighted in that final sequence, which started with the Thunder getting the ball with 19.9 seconds, down by two. After a Kevin Durant miss was knocked out of bounds by Golden State, Durant found Serge Ibaka on a perfectly executed play for a jumper, which banged high off the back rim, leaving Westbrook the opportunity to climb the ladder to make his hustle play.

It wasn’t just in the final seconds that Westbrook made his mark on this one, however, as the Thunder’s point guard was everywhere at once on the floor during his 42 minutes of action. With a game-high five steals, Westbrook was a force defensively to quell Warriors runs, while he used his 34 points and seven assists to continually will his team back from deficits.

“He has a heart of a champion and he displays it every night,” Brooks said of Westbrook. “We’re not perfect players but our effort has to be perfect and Russell plays with great effort. I like how he plays and I love what he brings to the team and our fans love what he brings to the team also. He just plays hard. That’s a simple talent, but not a lot of guys know how to play hard and he knows how to play hard.”

While Westbrook’s jumper in the left corner sealed the thrilling victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena, every Thunder player was involved in the win. Durant’s 11-point fourth quarter, Serge Ibaka’s 18-point, 13-rebound performance and the 23 points the Thunder got out of Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb were all crucial to the Thunder’s offensive flow.

It was the effort by Ibaka and Sefolosha on the defensive end, however, that stood out during all four quarter sand overtime. The Thunder’s stalwart duo held opponents Klay Thompson and David Lee to a horrid 7-for-31 shooting performance, which earned praise from Brooks and teammates as the Thunder confirmed the importance of players who imbue the Thunder’s defensive mindset on the game for every minute they’re on the floor.

“Thabo was phenomenal tonight,” Brooks said. “Thabo was chasing him and doing a great job of not allowing him a lot of air space and no separation. That’s what we love about Thabo. He just plays. He doesn’t get a lot of shots and offensive opportunities, but he knows how to play and how to play extremely hard.”

“(Serge) is very comfortable,” Brooks said. “Every year he has improved, not only basketball, but his body and basketball knowledge. We talk about his defense and we should.”

TURNING POINT:

The energy of the game turned for the Thunder in the closing minutes of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. Russell Westbrook made three straight steals to get the Thunder out in transition, turning an 80-71 deficit into just an 80-76 Warriors lead after a Westbrook three-pointer and a Jeremy Lamb pull-up jumper. Coming out of the quarter break, the Thunder got a free throw and then a jumper from Kevin Durant, who then hit Nick Collison for a jumper and added a fade-away in the lane to help the Thunder take an 83-82 edge with 10:01 left in regulation. That 12-2 burst by the Thunder changed the game completely and led to the dramatic conclusion.

“I felt we were a little stagnant,” Westbrook said. “We got a little slow and they made a few shots. We had to find some energy, and that’s my job as a point guard and that’s what I try to do.”

“Russ is the energizer bunny,” said point guard Reggie Jackson. “He never gets tired, it seems like. He really picked us up. He really lifted us to cut that to a (six)-point deficit going into the fourth. He was great for us tonight.”

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:

Active hands by Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha on the perimeter to slap the ball away and create a fast break opportunity. Westbrook fronts his man in post defense and swats the ball away to disrupt a possession. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka set strong screens for Westbrook to free him up for jumpers. Perfect closeout by Kevin Durant to prevent a three-point attempt. Thabo Sefolosha recognizes a mismatch and immediately posts up his smaller defender.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:

Quickness by Westbrook to defend the post knocks the ball away. Ibaka rises up for a strong defensive rebound and then gets the ball to Westbrook for a transition opportunity. Slick interior passing from Westbrook to Nick Collison to Ibaka for a layup. Westbrook’s relentlessesness gives the Thunder extra possessions. Reggie Jackson saves the ball from going out of bounds by throwing it off his man. Incredible helpside defense by Jeremy Lamb to come over and block a shot to start a Thunder fast break. Durant knocks away a rebound from an opponent to regain possession for the Thunder.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, OVERTIME:

Incredible backdoor cut by Westbrook and sharp vision by Durant to find him to draw a foul. Westbrook directs traffic to set up a perfect lob pass that creates two foul shots. Two strong shot contests by Lamb to force missed jumpers. Sefolosha makes the hustle play of the game to save the ball in-bounds right to Westbrook, who nails the game-winning three.



“I’m thankful for the effort tonight… It was just a great game. You love this game for these type of moments.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

!doctype>