Game Recap

9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, part of 23 that the Thunder had on the night, in addition to his seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks

14 Steals, a Thunder Playoff high, including six by Thabo Sefolosha

18-7 Fast break points advantage for the Thunder, whose 18 game on 8-for-10 shooting

19 Points for Thabo Sefolosha, tying a season-high, in addition to six steals, six rebounds and one blocked shot

20 Points off turnovers for the Thunder, which caused 21 Spurs turnovers

32-17  Point differential for the Thunder in the second quarter, including a 24-5 run

44 Rebounds for the Thunder, including 12 offensive boards, led by Kendrick Perkins' eight rebounds

44-24 Advantage in points in the paint for the Thunder on the night

        
GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
The energy, exuberance and life that was palpable at the Thunder's shootaround this morning certainly carried over into Thursday night's 102-82 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

With an incredible defensive effort that featured multiple efforts by all five men on the same possession, active hands, long arms and supreme force, the Thunder clamped down on the Spurs offense throughout the night. Whether it was the pick-and-roll defense played up top by Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook along with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, or the defensive anticipation by Kevin Durant and James Harden, Head Coach Scott Brooks team's defense was stifling.

"I thought we played great defense from the start," Brooks said. "Everybody was engaged. Everybody was in the stands and our hands were active. We contested shots. We rebounded the basketball."

That lockdown defense was jumpstarted tonight by the stopper and defensive ace, Sefolosha. Known around the league as one of the NBA's premier perimeter defenders, Sefolosha drew the assignment of Tony Parker tonight, racking up four steals in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game. He had six total steals on the night, one shy of a career-high, in addition to a blocked shot that he recovered after making a second effort behind the play. His defense breathed life into the entire defensive operation.

"We came to play, the whole team and it worked out for us," Sefolosha said. "But my teammates did a great job finding me and I was reading them. I think I played pretty well defensively and that got me going offensively as well."

On top of the defensive performance, Sefolosha also was the Thunder's second leading scorer with 19 on the night, tying a season-high in addition to being three points short of his career-high. Thanks to four three pointers and two other buckets, Sefolosha came through on a night when Westbrook and Harden combined for 25 points and Durant had 22.

"(Sefolosha) was phenomenal tonight," Durant said. "He was so active on the defensive end. He got a lot of deflections and got us some easy points in transition. They've been leaving him open on the three ball. He took ten of them tonight. We believe in him, he's confident shooting that jumpshot."

Part of the Thunder's success with Sefolosha on the offensive end stemmed from the team's ball movement and player movement. With 23 assists on the night, including nine by Westbrook, the Thunder shared the ball and found the open man. For the Thunder, a defense-first team, all of that offensive firepower stemmed from its ability to contest shots and force turnovers. Whether it was the Thunder Playoff-high 14 steals or the second and third efforts on closeouts, the Thunder used that hustle on defense to create offense.

"(The multiple efforts were) very important," Westbrook said. "They're a great shooting team. You can't afford to leave them open and not contest. Everybody did a great job of scrambling. Whatever it took for us to get the steal, rebound and get out in transition."

For the Thunder, now down 2-1 in the series to the Spurs, this is just a first step in battling back in this series. Brooks' squad always takes a one-game-at-a-time approach, and it knows it must replicate this effort and some in order to prevail in Game 4 on Saturday night. By the time the Thunder got into the locker room after the win, its mindset was already on trying to succeed at its next task, evening the series back up at 2-2.

"This win is over with," Perkins said. "You can tell guys were pretty locked in right after the win. There wasn't anything being said, no high-fiving because we still have a long way. We have a lot of work to do."

Turning Point
The turning point in this one came in the second quarter, when the Thunder turned a five-point deficit into a 14-point lead in a seven-minute span. Trailing 27-22 with 11:28 remaining in the quarter, the Thunder reeled off a 24-5 run that resulted in a 46-32 Thunder lead with 4:15 remaining in the quarter after a Russell Westbrook jumper. During the run, the Thunder forced eight missed shots and four turnovers all while assisting on its first six made buckets of the quarter.

Plays the box score won't show, first half…
Kevin Durant gets into the low block then throws a cross court pass to Thaboe Sefolosha, who hits Russell Westbrook for a floater… Sefolosha then makes a steal, Kendrick Perkins boxes out and Durant gets fouled on the fast break… Great pick-and-roll defense from Ibaka leads to a Perkins steal and a Westbrook to Durant alley oop, then Sefolosha makes two straight steals and Westbrook finds Ibaka for a jumper… Sefolosha hustles around a screen to defend Tony Parker, then Westbrook gets to the rim and finishes with his left hand… Good box out from Ibaka, then he and Sefolosha battle on the defensive boards leading to a Westbrook post-up… James Harden stays alert to grab the defensive rebound, then Westbrook's ball pressure forces a turnover… Nice post defense by Perkins leads to a Tim Duncan airball, then Harden takes the ball down court for a layup… Perkins defends Parker well on a switch then Durant flies in for a two-handed slam from outside the paint… Durant somehow splits defenders and finishes with a finger roll, then Derek Fisher draws an offensive foul… Fisher goes away from a Nick Collison screen for a bucket, then Collison tips one in… Fisher draws another offensive foul to end the quarter… Fisher hits Collison on a midrange jumper, then Sefolosha finds Ibaka on the fast break… Sefolosha with a block, then Ibaka tips it out and it leads to a Sefolosha three pointer… Harden and Ibaka make a steal that leads to a Harden layup, then Ibala flies in for a block… Harden draws an offensive foul on the Spurs then Harden draws a foul at the cup… Collison makes a steal then Westbrook hits Harden on the wing, who drives and gets to the foul line… Incredible decision by Westbrook to drive and dish to Harden in the corner for three, then Durant comes up with a board and Westbrook tips one back out… Westbrook with another nice dish, this time to Collison for a layup… Perfect, unselfish ball movement leads to a Durant layup, then Durant boxes out and Perkins gets one to roll in around the rim… Good hands by Perkins and Fisher on defense leads to a Westbrook jumper, then Durant takes it hard to the cup and draws a foul… Ibaka with a strong box out, then he makes a steal and Durant knocks down a jumper after a Perkins screen… Perkins keeps the play alive by grabbing a missed shot as an alley oop… Westbrook hustles to track down an offensive rebound, then makes a steal and blocks a shot to end the half.

Plays the box score won't show, second half…
Durant stays patient and calmly sends a cross court pass to Sefolosha for a three pointer... Sefolosha's length bothers Parker, then Perkins grabs a board and Westbrook snares an offensive rebound for a Durant floater… Sefolosha hustles to the offensive glass and tips one in, then Perkins and Ibaka box out hard for a defensive board… Westbrook hustles for an offensive board after Durant and Sefolosha close out hard on a three pointer, then Westbrook hits Durant in transition for a layup… Sefolosha with nice defense followed by a good Westbrook contest, then a wonderful job of scrambling by the Thunder defense that leads to a Westbrook steal… Perkins boxes out and draws a foul, then Durant's defense on the ball forces a turnover… Nice pick from Perkins frees up Durant for a jumper, then the Thunder pinches down on defense to force a tough miss… Sefolosha sticks with the play to get his own rebound then Durant hits Ibaka for a jumper while Sefolosha gets fouled… Sefolosha recovers on multiple efforts to block a shot, then Ibaka slips the screen and draws a foul… Really smart play by Fisher to be patient and give the ball up before Harden finds him again in the corner for a three… Durant and Ibaka work the pick-and-roll as Ibaka nails a jumper, then Fisher smartly fouls to prevent a sure bucket… Ibaka and Sefolosha hustle to get on the floor for a loose ball, then Ibaka hustles back to block a transition layup… Durant sticks with it and hits Sefolosha for a three and Ibaka blocks another shot to end the quarter… Durant skies for a rebound, then Harden splits a double team for a bucket… Westbrook's quick hands get a steal then he flips it to Sefolosha for an alley-oop, followed by Ibaka drawing an offensive foul on a clear out by Manu Ginobili… Perfect back door cut by Westbrook as Harden finds him for an alley oop, then a Sefolosha and Durant steal leads to a Durant to Sefolosha fast break layup… Durant makes a steal by anticipating in the lane… Good patience by Westbrook on a drive to get the ball to Ibaka for two free throws, then he reels in a defensive rebound and Durant finds Ibaka for a jumper… Ibaka and Sefolosha box out hard, then Harden banks in a jumper at the buzzer… Westbrook drives and kicks to Sefolosha for a corner three pointer, then Harden's box out draws a foul… Fisher hits Lazar Hayward for a midrange jumper, then he finds Royal Ivey for a jumper… Cole Aldrich hustles around the rim and Daequan Cook knocks down a jumper as the game comes to a close.

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