5 Players who scored in double figures for the Thunder on the night

9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, in addition to 21 points

12 Steals by the Thunder, including two each from Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins and Reggie Jackson

16 Points for Serge Ibaka, all of which came after halftime

17-2 The Thunder’s advantage in points off turnovers tonight

20-9 The edge in the Thunder’s favor in fast break points

34-21The amount by which the Thunder’s bench outscored the Portland bench

43-34 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night, including 10 by Kevin Durant
March 24th, 2013

When the Thunder protects the ball and forces opponents into miscues, it can methodically attack its opponent.

On Sunday night Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club took care of business against the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena, winning 103-83 behind a staunch defensive effort and an unselfish offensive outing. By getting hands in the passing lane, contesting shots and pressuring ball-handlers, the Thunder made 12 steals and forced 17 turnovers, which it turned into 17 points. On the other end of the floor, the Thunder only had 11 turnovers that resulted in just two points for Portland. That combination led to a solid home victory for the Thunder.

“We had seven steals in the first half but we did a better job in the second half of converting,” Brooks said. “We talk about that- converting steals into points immediately, try to get them quickly. And we did that better in the second half. Our defense was good. We didn’t give up anything easy.”

Not only did the Thunder turn the Blazers over, but it also held its key players to poor shooting nights. A staple of the Thunder’s defense is contesting shots all over the floor. Overall, the Thunder kept Portland to just 40.5 percent shooting from the field. The combination of Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison held LaMarcus Aldridge to only 3-for-14 shooting, while also keeping him away from the basket. Along with the versatile Kevin Durant as a swing defender, the Thunder’s bigs kept Aldridge in check.

“I think our bigs made him think a few times on shots,” Durant said. “Kendrick did a great job, Serge, Nick, and Hasheem (Thabeet) did such a great job on him… It was great defense and we have to continue our defensive output we have had these past three games. Hopefully next game is better.”

On the offensive end, the Thunder had a balanced offensive attack, racking up 23 assists and getting five players to score in double figures. Led by Durant’s 24 points and Russell Westbrook’s nine assists, the Thunder was able to move the ball all over the floor, score in transition and be effective in its offensive sets. Perhaps the biggest lift the Thunder’s offense got, however, was from Serge Ibaka, who scored all 16 of his points after halftime on an efficient 7-for-9 shooting.

“Russell did a good job of finding him,” Brooks said. “We have some plays to utilize his skill and he’s one of the best mid-range shooters in the league… He had five blocks, some rebounds, but he made his shots. That’s one thing he can do, make shots. He’s doing better catching and finishing around the basket tonight.”

Saddled with three fouls in the first half, Ibaka didn’t take a shot from the field. After halftime, however, he didn’t let that bother him and came out aggressive on both ends of the floor. The young forward from the Congo had five blocks to go with his scoring and did a solid job of defending in the final 24 minutes of action. The professionalism and mental strength the fourth-year forward showed to stay focused stood out to his teammates.

“It just shows that he has matured and he has gotten better,” Westbrook said. “It’s tough to play with fouls in the first half and not be able to play but he came back in the second and did a great job.”

Turning Point:
It was a back-and-forth affair until the end of the third quarter, where the Thunder went on an 8-0 run that changed the game completely. It was a 65-65 game with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter, and over the span of a minute, the Thunder built the lead to 73-65, an advantage that wouldn’t dip below five again. Serge Ibaka made a mid-range jumper after a pass from Russell Westbrook, then Ibaka found Kevin Martin on the wing for a three-pointer. After a Westbrook fast break layup plus the foul, the Thunder had gained all of the momentum.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Great aggressiveness by Perkins in defending the pick-and-roll to stop Lillard from getting into the paint. Ibaka hustles back on defense to swat a sure transition layup. Ibaka dives all over the floor for a loose ball, forcing Portland to call a timeout with three seconds left on the shot clock. Nice patience by Collison to keep his feet while pump faking to get a layup. Collison steps in and takes a tough charge.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Nice hesitation by Ibaka to fake out his defender then keep the ball high before knocking down a jumper. Smart aggressiveness by Sefolosha to keep the ball and run the fast break to find Perkins for a jumper. Perkins tips out a loose ball to Westbrook to help the Thunder regain possession. Unselfish play by Ibaka to kick the ball out from under the rim to find Martin for three. Wonderful concentration by Jackson to tip an offensive rebound twice, getting it to Ibaka. Slick backdoor cut by Martin to draw a foul.

“That was a good team win. Everybody did their job and got into the game and made wining basketball plays. The defense really picked up as the game went along. I thought Perk’s (Perkins) defense on Aldridge was about as good as you can play. And then Serge (Ibaka) and Nick (Collison); they all did a good job.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks