Regular Season Recap: Thunder at 76ers

THUNDER 92

76ERS 88
4 Number of assists apiece for Russell Westbrook and James Harden

7 Straight field goals made by the Thunder from 8:30 to 1:51 of the first quarter

11 Lead changes in the ball game, which also featured 13 ties

13 Rebounds by Russell Westbrook, a season-high, including 7 on offense one shy of a career-high

19 Offensive rebounds by the Thunder on the night, including 8 combined by Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka

26 Free throws made by the Thunder on the evening, helping brush off a 38.5 percent shooting night

29 Fourth quarter points by the Thunder, the most either team scored in a quarter all game

56-39 The rebounding advantage for the Thunder, a +17 edge

The Thunder will continue its road trip in Orlando on Thursday night when it faces the Magic. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then finishes it's road trip in Atlanta on Saturday when it faces the Hawks before coming home to host the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday, the first of five straight home games.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
The Thunder certainly didn't shoot the ball the way that it is capable of doing, but by continuing to improve in other areas, it yet again found a way to win a game on the road against a tough opponent. Using a plus-17 rebounding advantage including 19 offensive rebounds, the Thunder was able to shrug off a 38.5 percent shooting night from the floor and grind out a 92-88 victory in Philadelphia against the 76ers. The Thunder trailed with just under four minutes remaining, and the final tie of the ball game was at 85-85 with 3:20 left in the contest, but it was during that stretch that the Thunder's defense clamped down and forced 11 missed field goal attempts by the 76ers from 5:32 until 5.9 seconds remaining in the game.

"First we have a team full of competitors that really do a great job of getting into the ball and getting into the man and making them miss shots," Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "That's our goal, every possession, to make them take a tough shot, a tough too. And we did that tonight in the fourth quarter. Both teams did. Both teams are good defensively. They fight every possession, every inch of the floor they fight. That's what makes them a good team, that's what makes us a good team. It was sloppy at times, but we stuck together and we hung tight."

A major factor in the victory was the Thunder's ability to stay close during a rough shooting night, using a plus-15 rebounding advantage in the first half to take a 53-48 lead into halftime. Throughout the game, Russell Westbrook seemed to be everywhere at once, grabbing seven of his 13 rebounds on the offensive end, which continued to give the Thunder more opportunities to score. A perfect example of just how important that rebounding was came in the game's final, most crucial moment. Kevin Durant stepped to the free throw line and knocked down the first of two to give the Thunder a 90-88 lead with 4.9 seconds left. Durant missed the second, but Westbrook flew in from nowhere to grab his final rebound of the night, then converted both attempts to the free throw line to give the Thunder a four-point advantage.

"From the point guard position, that's just amazing," guard James Harden said of Westbrook's effort on the glass. "13 rebounds, a key rebound at the end of the game to win the game for us. He's an All-Star, that's what he does."

The hustle and emotion on the floor was palpable, as two teams who take pride on the defensive end of the court matched up and battled throughout the evening. The Thunder simply executed better down the stretch, and was able to emerge with a well-earned victory. Besides Harden's box score-filling effort of 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists, it was Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins' effort on the defensive end that helped slow down the Sixers offense and generate some fast break opportunities for the Thunder. Whether it be the 19 combined rebounds between Ibaka and Perkins or the incredible instincts by Perkins to block a late 3-point attempt by Jodie Meeks, the duo once again did their jobs to the best of their ability.

"It was really big," Durant said. "Serge and Perk did a great job of keeping basketballs alive, giving us extra possessions and Russ did a great job as well offensive rebounding. That's what we needed. We were struggling on the offensive end, but that pushes a little bit more energy in the team when you get offensive rebounds, so we need to continue to do that."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point in this one came in the third quarter, despite the Thunder not actually taking the lead during the sequence. It was entering danger time for the Thunder, who trailed by eight points with 9:52 to go in the third quarter, and the Sixers had the ball. Royal Ivey came away with a defensive rebound, then rookie point guard Reggie Jackson attacked the rim to make a driving lay-up. In the blink of an eye, Ivey stole the inbounds pass by the Sixers and put home a lay-up, making it a four-point game. A few minutes later Kevin Durant knocked down two free throws, James Harden made a lay-up and then Durant flung a cross-court pass to Ivey in the corner for a huge 3-pointer that made it a one-point game at 78-77 Sixers with 6:59 left in the quarter. The 11-4 spurt was answered by the Sixers with a quick 6-0 run, but the point had been made: the Thunder wasn't going away quietly.

"I thought (Ivey) made two big plays that really sparked us," Brooks said. "He hit a big three that we needed. Then the play before that, I think Reggie (Jackson) made a nice finish to the basket, cut it to six, and (Ivey) came in, stole the outlet pass and made another bucket, cut it to four, 74-70. I thought those plays, and then (Daequan Cook's) three, were huge, because we were going nowhere and it was going there pretty fast. He kept the scoreboard moving with those plays and gave us a chance and gave us hope going into the fourth (quarter)."

"I was just thinking in my head, 'energy, energy, energy'," Ivey said. "They were rolling a little bit, but I think that was the turning point in the game. I had a feeling that if we get it close enough, we could pull it out, and that's what happened."

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Russell Westbrook got back in transition defense to force a travel... Strong offensive rebound inside by Westbrook then good hustle to get a loose ball and draw a foul by Serge Ibaka... Great job by Ibaka to clean up his own miss on the offensive board and put home a floater... Tough rebound inside on the defensive end by Kendrick Perkins, which turns into a Westbrook layup in the lane... Westbrook kicks to the corner for Daequan Cook, who steps up and knocks down a jumper... Kevin Durant somehow getting a shot to go in off the side of his hand, followed by Westbrook going up high in the air for a defensive rebound and finishing on the other end... James Harden drives and dishes to Ibaka in the corner, who knocks down a jumper... Westbrook distorts his body in mid-air to finish at the rim... Nick Collison being heads up and grabbing a loose ball in traffic... Harden finds Nazr Mohammed for an elbow jumper to end the quarter... Royal Ivey playing pesky defense on the perimeter... Big offensive rebounds by Perkins, who eventually found Westbrook who finished in the lane with his left hand... Westbrook rebounds his own miss then the ball ends up in Ibaka's hands, who finishes at the rim.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice passing to start the second half for the Thunder, as Westbrook hits Durant who finds Perkins to draw a foul... Ibaka with a strong block, then follows it up by contesting another shopt and forcing a miss... Huge 3-pointer by Cook to stop a 15-2 run to start the second half by the Sixers... Great hustle by Westbrook to get on the floor and grab a loose ball under the basket, then draw a foul... Tough team defense to swarm and rotate, eventually forcing a turnover... Nice team rebounding by Collison, Perkins and Harden to grab a loose ball on the defensive end... Quick hands by Harden to stay in the passing lane and pick off a back-door pass attempt by Evan Turner... Good job by Collison of getting into the passing lane and knocking the ball off of Lou Williams... Great passing between Harden, Collison and Mohammed... Reggie Jackson with a tough finish in the lane through contact, then Royal Ivey steals the inbounds pass for a layup... Strong post defense by Collison to keep Elton Brand out of the lane... Nice outlet pass from Collison to Westbrook who found Durant, who drew a foul... Beautiful cross-court pass from Durant to Ivey for a 3-pointer... Nice job of taking advantage of a mismatch by Durant, posting up and knocking down a hook shot... Durant follows it up with a huge transition 3-pointer off a Perkins outlet pass... Ibaka with a big defensive rebound in traffic to get the ball in Harden's hands... Perfect defense by Perkins to bother a shot on the defensive end... Then Westbrook gets a HUGE offensive rebound to give the Thunder another look, and Ibaka does the same before drawing a foul... Perkins with a great block-out to get a defensive rebound... Fantatstic team defense and rotations in the closing minutes, including great pressure on the outside by Westbrook... Perfect switch and hedge by Perkins to force a tough pass into the lane that Ibaka stole... Great intensity on defense by the Thunder in the closing minutes... Harden and Durant trap in the corner and come up with a big steal to get to the free throw line... Perkins comes over and stuffs a 3-point attempt in the corner... Westbrook comes flying in for yet another offensive rebound to draw a foul and end the game.