WARRIORS 121
THUNDER 127
6Assists for Reggie Jackson in addition to 14 poitns and three steals

8-for-11 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds

12Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, a season-high, to go with two assists and two steals

13 Steals for the Thunder on the night, including 10 by the starting lineup

27Points scored by the Thunder off of 17 Warriors turnovers

50-40The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, where it shot 25-for-38 compared to the Warriors’ 20-for-37

54 Points for Kevin Durant, a career-high, on 19-for-28 shooting, including 5-for-9 from the three-point line and 11-for-13 from the free throw line

58.0 Shooting percentage for the Thunder, including 9-for-22 from the three-point line, as the Thunder racked up 23 assists

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Jan. 17th, 2014
RECAP:

The crowd rose to its feet in reverence and elation as the Thunder raced back down court after Kevin Durant blocked a shot and Thabo Sefolosha gathered the rebound. Durant was sitting on five straight made shots in the fourth quarter, and as Jeremy Lamb set him up on a post-up, and NBA’s leading scorer did the rest with an 11-foot turnaround jumper and setting the crowd ablaze with applause.

Chesapeake Energy Arena witnessed a sublime performance on Friday night from the entire Thunder squad, highlighted by Kevin Durant’s career-high 54 points on a staggeringly efficient 19-for-28 shooting from the field and 5-for-9 marksmanship from the three-point line. Set up by 29 in the first half, Durant then followed through with 15 in the fourth quarter, including a flurry of 13-straight for his team as the Thunder used a 13-3 burst to break away from the Golden State Warriors in a 127-121 victory.

Despite his transcendent night that also featured six assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block, Durant was humble postgame while Head Coach Scott Brooks praised his All-NBA forward’s leadership and commitment to winning. .

“As a leader, my main objective is to serve my teammates and how I can help them out,” Durant said. “Some nights I have to put it up and score. Some nights I have to do other things. Tonight they found me and I was able to hit a few shots.”

“He’s an amazing teammate and he just wants to win,” Brooks said. “He wants to help his teammates have success. He has a gift of scoring, but he also has a gift of playmaking and seeing his teammates score. His assist level has gone up every year, he’s rebounding the ball this year at a high clip and defending. He’s a two-way player. Those are the special players in the league that can impact the game on both ends of the floor.”

It wasn’t just Durant who propelled the Thunder to victory on the night, however, as the team had to turn around after an emotional come-from-behind victory over the Rockets in Houston on Thursday night. Despite arriving home around 3:00 a.m. after Thursday night’s game, the Thunder got incredible energy from everyone on the roster, including Thabo Sefolosha who hustled back to break up a fast break to Nick Collison who dove on the floor for loose balls.

The mental and emotional maturity that it took for the Thunder to stay focused for 48 minutes in this one on the second night of a challenging back-to-back was the true key to victory.

“We’re proud of this one,” Collison said. “To be able to come back and play well again was big for us. We had a lot of guys contribute and make big plays. It’s a really good back-to-back win for us.”

“We were playing with high energy, playing as a team, enjoying one another on the court and doing the right thing,” Sefolosha said.

Whereas defense was the key in the Thunder’s victory over the Rockets on Thursday, tonight’s affair was an offensive explosion, highlighted by the Thunder’s astounding 58.0 shooting percentage from the field, added by 50 points in the paint, 8-for-11 shooting for 21 points for Serge Ibaka and a combined 26 from Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb.

It was Durant, particularly his aggressiveness and precision along the right wing in the fourth quarter, that put the nail in the coffin after the Thunder’s defense in the third quarter forced Golden State into eight turnovers. Possession after possession, Durant slalomed around screens and fought his way to the right wing, just above the break. With his length, quickness and pin-point accuracy, Durant buried three-straight three-pointers, which granted a feeling of satisfaction from years spent painstakingly working on those exact shot locations.

“I’ve been working on that shot,” Durant explained. “The right wing used to be the shot I missed the most. People put in work with me throughout the summer and throughout the season, and I started to make it a little bit better.”

“He’s cutting hard, he’s setting up his man better and he’s catching the ball in a better spot,” Collison said. “There are a lot of different things he’s doing well right now, and it’s tough to guard.”

“The great thing about it is that he didn’t force much,” Collison continued. “He was able to get a lot of it in rhythm. It was an incredible performance. We’ve seen it a few times before, but he’s really got it going.”

As the night progressed, the rowdy Thunder crowd continued to elevate its volume, and the entire Thunder roster became engrossed in the energy that the team was creating on both ends of the floor. With Russell Westbrook and teammates imploring the fans to reach even higher decibel levels, the frenzy reached a fever pitch in that fourth quarter, inspiring Durant to new heights, and even more admiration for his city and those who support the team.

“I look at the bench and see how my teammates are reacting and that gives me an extra push,” Durant said. “I hear the fans. It is unbelievable playing for this city and playing in this building every night. They ignite us so much and we just really appreciate the energy they bring to us.

“Tonight we were playing against a team that can score points so quickly, and the crowd did a great job in that fourth quarter of taking them out a little bit, and it led us to the win,” Durant continued.

TURNING POINT:

Durant’s fourth quarter flurry may have provided the lasting images of this game, but the true turning point came late in the third quarter, when the Thunder extended an 89-84 lead into a 99-86 advantage during a two minute stretch. The quick 10-2 burst began with a Kevin Durant free throw, then a step back-jumper, then continued with two Nick Collison free throws after Steven Adams made a steal. Durant hit a jumper, then a Derek Fisher steal led to two free throws before Durant knocked down two more after a Thabo Sefolosha steal.

“Our defense played a little bit better at the end of the third quarter, and I thought that was the turning point of the game,” Brooks said.

Defense sparked the run, as the Thunder forced four Warriors turnovers that led to eight Thunder points. The Warriors never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

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

Incredible give-and-go between Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant as Ibaka hit Durant with a nice bounce pass on a backdoor cut then Durant found him for a dunk. Great job by Kendrick Perkins to move his feet and stay in front of a much smaller man and force a tough miss. Excellent close out by Durant to force his man to shoot a contested two-pointer instead of an open three. Beautiful back-door pass by Perkins to Durant for an easy dunk. Durant directs traffic out top and gets Perkins to set a screen, eventually drawing two foul shots. Thabo Sefolosha pressures in the backcourt to prevent the Warriors from getting a two-for-one.

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

Durant finds Perkins in the lane with a bounce pass that draws a foul. Jackson hustles back in transition defense to slap away a pass, preventing a sure dunk. Sefolosha and Perkins time a Warriors pick and roll to force a turnover. Sefolosha dives on the floor for a loose ball and saves a possession, then he hustles back to single-handedly blow up a fast break. Perkins tips a loose offensive board twice to give the Thunder another look at the rim. Durant hustles to dive on the floor and draw a foul with his effort.



““Everybody just played hard and of course you’ll see me hitting a few shots, but it is the small things that go into a game that help us win, and everybody did it tonight.” - forward Kevin Durant

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