Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Blazers

THUNDER 109

BLAZERS 95
3 Lead changes throughout the game, with zero ties, with none of those lead changes occurring after the score was 4-3 Thunder

6 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka on the night. The Thunder had eight as a team

10-for-14 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant on the night, plus 3-for-3 from the free throw line for 25 points

12 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka, part of his 8-point, 12-rebound, 6-block night

32 Points on the night by Russell Westbrook, the game-high

43-30 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, including 31 rebounds from the starters

50-36 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder tonight

57.0 Shooting percentage for the the Thunder on the night

The Thunder will finish its road trip on Friday when it plays the Lakers in Los Angeles. Game time is 9:30 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then returns home for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Chicago Bulls followed by a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
There was a tenuous moment in the Rose Garden on Tuesday night when the Thunder saw its 21-point first half lead get trimmed down to just five points, when the Thunder burst to a quick 6-2 run and gave itself some breathing room. It was one of a number of occasions on the night in which the Portland Trail Blazers threatened the Thunder, but Head Coach Scott Brooks' club answered with a run of its own to push the lead back out to a more comfortable level. After the game, many of the players in the locker room, including veteran point guard Derek Fisher, were proud of the way the Thunder played through those runs with confidence, and how the team can use that experience moving forward.

"It's extremely important, in particular on the road," Fisher said of combating opposing runs. "As we move through the end of the regular season and get into the playoffs, we're going to face similar situations where we have a lead or we're playing well, and the home team is always going to make a run, especially when you're playing the better teams in the West. The way we responded tonight was a great sign."

There were only three lead changes in the game, and all of them occurred within the first two minutes of the game. In fact, when the Thunder took a 4-3 lead on a Kevin Durant 20-foot jumper with 10:01 remaining in the first quarter, the Blazers never took the lead again. The Thunder raced out to a 65-47 halftime lead, but was tested mightily in the third quarter as the Blazers jumped out to a 19-6 run to start the third quarter, and proceeded to stay mostly within single digits from 5:37 left in the third quarter until 9:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was during this time that the Thunder dug deep, didn't give into the Portland crowd, and pulled away.

"When you're on the road and you're up twenty in the first half, it really is nothing," Durant said. "A great team like this, they'll find a way to come back. That's what they did tonight, their crowd was unbelievable. They put pressure on us, but I think we did a good job responding, we made plays and we got a good win."

The Thunder's 32-18 first quarter lead jumpstarted Brooks' team, and it was all spurred on by the overall team defense and rebounding in the opening twelve minutes. By holding the Blazers to 6-for-23 shooting in the first quarter and out-rebounding Portland by twelve in the first half, the Thunder was able to keep All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge from having an explosive game, in addition to keeping the Blazers perimeter players almost completely in check.

"That's what we wanted to do on this road trip, to start the trip playing defense," Brooks said of the Thunder's good start. "We did that by holding them to only 18 points (in the first quarter). The offense, we were making the shots, we were moving the basketball. We were making them chase us and chase the ball and we were finding the good shot."

Combined with the defensive focus and intensity, the Thunder had 14 first half assists, including seven from Russell Westbrook and five from James Harden. Westbrook in particular did a nice job early on of setting up his teammates for easy buckets, as the Thunder shot 65.9 percent from the field in the opening half.

"We've been doing that a lot lately, and I'm happy with the way that we're playing right now," Westbrook said. "Just getting my guys and making them feel comfortable and happier playing. Just trying to be unselfish and get guys involved. My job is not for me to get going, but to get those guys going and then I'll find mine throughout the game."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point in this one came with 4:43 remaining in the third quarter, when the Blazers had cut the Thunder lead to five points at 71-66. Over the next 1:45, Russell Westbrook reeled off six straight points for a quick 6-2 run that gave the Thunder a 77-68 lead with 2:58 remaining in the quarter. It started with a steal that Westbrook simply willed by crashing through the passing lane and racing down court. Then Westbrook hit a floater in the lane and followed it up by a 19-foot jumper. From that point on the Blazers never got closer than seven points, and the lead stayed in double digits for good with 8:59 left in the game.

"I just tried to stay aggressive," Westbrook said. "The home team tends to make runs, and my job as a point guard is to take control of the game when things get out of whack. It's great man, especially on the road and in an environment like this. This is a tough place to play, and as a team we did a great job of staying together and coming out with the win."

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Great defensive instincts by Kendrick Perkins to slide over into the lane and knock away an alley-oop attempt for LaMarcus Aldridge then Serge Ibaka gets involved early with an offensive board and a put-back... Westbrook with nice defensive anticipation to make a help-side steal then an unselfish dropback pass to Kevin Durant then Ibaka and Perkins swat away two shots in a row... Nice box out by Ibaka to grab a defensive rebound, then Westbrook tips an offensive board to Thabo Sefolosha that leads to a dunk... Strong interior defense and rebounding from Perkins and Ibaka to force a tough missed shot by Aldridge... Beautiful outlet pass to James Harden, who raced ahead and lobbed an alley-oop to Durant for a jam... Westbrook drives into the lane and dumps one off to Nick Collison for a dunk, then Harden drives into the middle of the defense and hits Derek Fisher for a corner 3-pointer... Harden then gets into the teeth of the defense before setting up Westbrook for a dunk, then Fisher snags a loose ball and sends the ball upcourt to Harden, who draws a foul with just two seconds left in the quarter... Collison with a nice box out on the offensive boards to tip in a Nazr Mohammed miss... Harden drops off a pass to Royal Ivey then Ivey drives the lane to Mohammed for an elbow jumper... Mohammed snags a defensive board and Harden finishes at the rim twice in a row, then Westbrook finds Harden for a 3-pointer... Great hustle by Ibaka to grab an offensive board, pick up a loose ball and then put it home, then Westbrook slings a pass from the lane to Durant for a 3-pointer... Perkins snags an offensive board, dribbles it out then lasers a one-handed pass to Westbrook for a dunk... Perkins does a nice job of helping over and forcing baseline to knock the ball out of bounds, then Durant gets a steal and kicks it ahead to Westbrook, who drops off the ball to Ibaka for a slam.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice defense by the entire Thunder squad to stifle a Blazers possession, culminating in a Durant steal and fast break slam... Amazing fast break block by Ibaka then Westbrook is in the right position to snare the loose ball out of mid air... Really important defensive reobund by Ibaka then Westbrook quiets the roaring crowd with a steal and layup gotten off sheer will... Great defense by Ibaka to stick with a smaller man, then Westbrook posts up his man, spins and hits a jumper... Emphatic block out top by Ibaka then Westbrook hits a tough jumper in the lane with the foul... Big offensive board by Westbrook, who kicks back out to Durant for a 3-pointer then Harden smartly gets to the line in a two-for-one situation... Fisher steps up and knocks down a 2-point jumper... Slick move in the lane by Harden to sneak in and jam it home, then he does it again plus the foul... Tight defense by Fisher and good rebound by Durant to get possession, then Durant stays active to draw a foul in the lane... Physical defense on one end by Collison to force a turnover, then Durant jab steps and knocks down a jumper... Solid hustle by Durant to slide over to foul and prevent a sure dunk, then Durant hits Harden for a 3-pointer... Smart work by Mohammed to tip out an offensive rebound to Cole Aldrich, then Reggie Jackson makes a nice strip steal.