THUNDER 87
BLAZERS 83
3-for-3 Three-point shooting numbers for DeAndre Liggins, who scored 11 points and grabbed a career-high nine assists

9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, in addition to his 18 points and eight rebounds

12 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, a season-high

14-6 Advantage in bench points for the Thunder, despite the team missing two starters

26-16 Scoring differential in the Thunder’s favor in the third quarter

33 Points for Kevin Durant on 12-for-21 shooting, in addition to six assists

40 Minutes for DeAndre Liggins, a career-high and the most by anyone for the Thunder

46-30 Advantage in points in the paint for the Thunder, who shot 23-for-36 while Portland shot 15-for-36 in the paint



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
Up by two points with eight seconds to go, and the ball in the opponent’s hands, the Thunder had to get one stop. For the defensive-minded team, it was the type of moment the team lives for.

Kendrick Perkins sized up LaMarcus Aldridge as he faked a hand-off up top, then stuck with him as he drove left. With a hand up, Perkins contested Aldridge’s fall-away jumper, forcing him to shoot an air-ball, and when Russell Westbrook snagged the rebound and knocked down two free throws, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team sealed the 87-83 victory that was highlighted by a staunch defensive effort.

“I thought it was inspired defensive basketball,” Brooks said to the Thunder’s Lesley McCaslin. “Liggins did a good job of just impacting the game with his great effort and Nick (Collison), he impacts the game by doing a lot of winning basketball plays on both ends of the floor. (Kendrick) Perkins was huge tonight. He was rebounding the basketball, setting great screens. We always look at Perk’s game. He has to do the energy things that we need.”

The Thunder held the Blazers to 36.0 percent shooting including 28.6 percent from three-point land even with Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha sitting out the game with a chest contusion and a sore neck respectively. As a result, DeAndre Liggins and Nick Collison stepped into the starting lineup alongside Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Perkins. Every man on the roster stepped up to help the Thunder get to 10-0 when holding opponents to under 40 percent.

“We did it together,” Durant said. “I can’t say enough about DeAndre Liggins, Perry Jones and Reggie (Jackson). (Kendrick) Perkins was unbelievable tonight. They held the defensive fort down and we just tried to feed off their energy. They were great. We did a great job of moving the basketball tonight. It was a really good win.”

The defensive stops the Thunder got helped the team on the offensive end, where it was led by Westbrook’s nine assists and Durant’s 33 points on 12-for-21 shooting. Durant also added six assists of his own while the Thunder’s duo of primarily ball-handlers got into the lane time and again in order to create scoring opportunities for themselves and others. While it wasn’t the Thunder’s best shooting night, the team did get timely shooting, like a big three-pointer from Westbrook on the wing and three shots from long distance by Liggins.

“That’s what we try to do,” Brooks said. “We score our points off of penetration and then we can hit threes on those kick-outs. But I thought tonight’s game was a physical game. It was a playoff-like atmosphere.”

In fact, Liggins was the biggest beneficiary of the Thunder’s drive-and-dish game tonight, as he knocked down all three of his three-point attempts en route to 11 points in 40 minutes, in addition to nine rebounds, all of which were career-highs. Shot-making is something Liggins, a defensive specialist, has said that he has been working on all season. It was his trademark effort and energy that led Brooks to play Liggins the most minutes of any Thunder player on the night.

“Just his toughness,” Brooks said. “I knew that’s what he brings to this team. That’s how he made the team from training camp on. He gives us energy every practice. Every practice he treats it as a game. You’re happy for him because you want him to have some success because he works so hard.”

Without Ibaka and Sefolosha in the lineup, Liggins and his teammates stepped up, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to Thunder fans who know Brooks’ squad operates with an “always-ready” mindset. Nick Collison scored eight points, Kendrick Perkins snagged a season-high and game-high 12 rebounds and Reggie Jackson scored six points while helping the Thunder bench outscore Portland’s to the tune of 14-6.

Sunday night’s victory was a nice one for the Thunder as a unit, as the team continues its road trip tomorrow night in Phoenix against the Suns, where again every player on the roster will need to be prepared to bring their best effort.

“Everybody just chipped in,” Durant said. “We played hard. We were missing shots early on but we didn’t let that dictate our defense and that’s what good things do. We have to keep it up and get ready for tomorrow.”

Turning Point:
The game was tied at 48-48 with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter, but over the next five minutes, the Thunder jumped out on a 15-4 run to take a 63-52 lead that it would never relinquish. It started with a slick Russell Westbrook driving layup, then a Nick Collison hook shot off a Westbrook assist. Kevin Durant then scored the next seven points by knocking down two free throws, a three-pointer and a driving layup from Westbrook. After that, Kevin Martin hit a free throw and DeAndre Liggins capped the run with a three-pointer off a pass from Durant. During the run the Thunder defense forced the Blazers to miss six shots and turn the ball over twice.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Nice hustle on defense by Kendrick Perkins to help in the corner on a double team then get back to contest a deep shot. Incredible defense by Liggins to stick with his man, stop penetration and get a hand in his man’s face to force an air-ball. Perkins anticipates an alley-oop lob and swats it out of bounds. Perkins dives on the floor to grab a loose ball and earns a jump ball. Wonderfully drawn play as Liggins hit a cutting Jones for a dunk in the lane. Wonderful anticipation by Martin to make a steal in transition then hit Westbrook for a layup plus the foul.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Great fight by Collison, Perkins and Liggins to fight for a defensive rebound. Nice teamwork between Westbrook and Durant as the former hits the latter for a backdoor layup. Good awareness by Thabeet to turn around in the lane to make a steal. Durant jumps the passing lane and deflects it to Liggins to get an important stop. Perfect positioning by Liggins to shade his body on a mid-air box out to grab a defensive rebound. Wonderful defensive possession by Perkins on the last possession of the game.



“It was one of our best defensive games of the year. That’s what teams do. Teams have to step up and figure out ways to win. Our guys came in off the bench and did a great job.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
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