Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Blazers

BLAZERS 95

THUNDER 111
7 Assists on the night by James Harden, part of a 24-assist effort by the Thunder

9-for-11 3-point shooting by Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook tonight

11-for-14 Free throw numbers for James Harden, who finished with 14 points

28 Points for Russell Westbrook, the game-high

31-15 The points advantage the Thunder held after one quarter

43 Rebounds for the Thunder, a +8 advantage over the Blazers

55.4 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the night

61.1 3-point shooting percentage on the night for the Thunder, a season-high

The Thunder will hit the road for one game when it plays the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night. Game time is 8:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then returns home for a Wednesday night matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers, a Friday night tilt against the Minnesota Timberwolves and a Sunday game against the Miami Heat.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
It was no coincidence that the Thunder came out with incredible effort, focus and intensity on Sunday night in its 111-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, considering the mentality that has been instilled in the club by Head Coach Scott Brooks. What makes it even less of a coincidence is that the victory moved the Thunder to 10-1 after a loss this season, second best in the NBA. Thanks to a solid job of rebounding the ball, a fantastic dedication to making the extra pass and spacing the floor and defensive intensity in the first quarter, the Thunder jumped out to a 16-point lead after 12 minutes and never looked back.

"I thought that was a pretty good team win," Brooks said. "One thing we wanted to focus on going into the game was to make sure we took care of rebounds, and we did that... The first quarter was probably one of our best defensive quarters of the season."

On the night the Thunder shot a whopping 61.1 percent from the three-point line, a season high in that category. The trio of Kevin Durant (4-for-5), Russell Westbrook (2-for-3) and Thabo Sefolosha (3-for-3) combined to shoot 9-for-11 behind the arc, capitalizing on great screens from big men like Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. While it was an overall team effort to space the floor and open each other up for shots, and Perkins credited players like Sefolosha with playing really strong minutes, Collison believes that it was his teammates' ability to carve through the lane to drive-and-dish to outside shooters that made the difference, helping the Thunder shoot 55.4 percent from the field with 24 assists on the night.

"I think passing (was key)," Collison said. "It starts with execution, if we can get an advantage, they have to help and that's when you can kick to open shooters."

On the other end of the floor, it was the work that the big men did on the inside that paved the way to victory. Blazers center LaMarcus Aldridge was an All-Star this season and played like one in the first two games between these teams this season, but was held to 15 points and six rebounds on 6-for-19 shooting as a result of the defensive effort of Perkins, Ibaka and Collison. Each of the big men got a turn defending Aldridge, each with a different style. In general, however, each player used a physical, straightforward approach that forced Aldridge into less desirable positions on the floor, forcing him to take difficult shots.

"I think we each guarded him differently," Perkins said. "Nick fighting him, fronting him a little bit, Serge did the same. We all played him straight up and we didn't give up position. We just kept him in between and made him score over the top and we challenged all of his shots... Definitely the effort was there, I thought all around we came out with the right mindset to do what we had to do."

Aldridge struggled all night to find a rhythm, and it was a result of the trio of big men who came into the game with not only the right mindset and attitude, but with knowledge they gleaned from film sessions and prior experience. Collison, with a reputation for being a cerebral, heady player, described the reasons why the Thunder was able to be successful against the All-Star forward and was able to prevent him from having a big night.

"He's obviously a really good player, really good offensively," Collison said. "We just try to make his catches difficult a little bit further out and try to guard him. He likes to go to the middle, he likes to go over his left shoulder, so we tried to play the scouting report. It's a lot easier if you keep him off the block because you can get digs from the perimeter. It's a lot easier to guard him that way than if you're letting him catch with a foot in the paint, so I think we did a good job of that."

TURNING POINT:
The Thunder broke this game open towards the middle of the first quarter, when it took a 10-10 tie with 8:02 remaining and turned it into a 31-15 advantage to end the first quarter thanks toa 21-5 run. It started with a Thabo Sefolosha 3-pointer, continued with a Serge Ibaka put-back dunk and two Russell Westbrook pull-up jumpers, then Kevin Durant knocked down a 3-pointer, Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins exchanged lay-ups and Durant capped it witha 20-foot pull-up jump shot. Throughout the run the Thunder forced 13 missed shot attempts and forced three turnovers.

"I think they only had (15) points in the first quarter," Westbrook said. "I think we did a good job of getting off to a great start."

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kendrick Perkins pulls in a defensive board, then Thabo Sefolosha swings the ball to Kevin Durant who drives to the lane for an acrobatic and-one layup... Perkins then comes over and makes a big block down low then Durant returns the favor, setting up Sefolosha for a 3-pointer... Durant and Westbrook both make extra passes to get a corner 3-pointer for Sefolosha... Great job of going up and contesting on the defensive end by Durant, who then takes a lob pass from Westbrook and draws a foul, then Serge Ibaka cleans up a Durant miss with a huge slam... Nice close out by Durant, who then swats another shot, then Perkins hustles for a n offensive board and finds a cutting Ibaka... Harden slings a cross-court pass to Durant, who nails a three pointer... Smart anticipation by Durant to step up and steal an outlet pass then dish it to Perkins for a layup... Harden snares a defensive rebound, then Durant pulls a sweet step-back jumper... Good strength from Reggie Jackson to square his shoulders and get his hips past his defender to hit a layup, then Collison makes a nice move in the post for a turn-around jumper... Jackson slinks through the lane again for a two-pointer, then Collison deflects a pick-and-roll pass to prevent an easy bucket... Perfect pick-and-pop from Harden to Collison for a jumper... Savvy move by Nazr Mohammed to tip an offensive rebound back to a teammate and give the Thunder another look at the bucket... Great positioning by Mohammed to snatch a tipped defensive rebound, then johnny-on-the-spot Collison taps in a Harden miss... Nice swing pass from Durant to Westbrook for a 3-pointer, then Perkins sets a high screen up top to free up Durant... Perkins then snags an offensive board and makes a block on LaMarcus Aldridge, then Harden finds Westbrook on a backdoor cut... Great show of strength by Westbrook to fight on the offensive glass and grab a rebound, then Daequan Cook makes a steal to set up a Westbrook jumper... Durant does a nice job of racing up court and finding Harden for a 3-pointer, which he gets fouled on for three shots.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Incredible job by Westbrook to get back and make a block in transition defense, then he finds Ibaka for a layup on the other end... Sefolosha in the right place at the right time to snag a loose ball and find Westbrook for a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, then Perkins steps up and knocks down a jumper... Huge hustle from Ibaka to get back and make a block in transition, then he plays strong straight up defense against Aldridge to force a turnover... Two solid defensive boards from Sefolosha, then Westbrook makes an insane lefty layup at the rim in traffic... Silky smooth reverse layup from Durant to score at the rim... Beautiful dribbling by Durant, who finds Collison, who swings to Harden for a 3-pointer... Ibaka comes over in helpside defense to make a block then Collison makes a slick pass into the lane into Ibaka to draw a foul... Collison then battles inside on the offensive glass to draw a foul... Ibaka flies in to reel in an offensive board then Harden somehow draws a foul on a 3-pointer with less than a second to go on the shot clock... Quick hands by Harden to almost make a steal, then quickness from Ibaka to snag a rebound, which leads to a floater by Cook... Slick cut-through dribble from Harden to drive and dish to Durant for his fourth 3-pointer of the night, then Ibaka smartly tips a defensive board to Cook... Sick reverse dunk by Durant to finish with authority then Westbrook makes an amazing one-handed catch of a desperation Harden pass to knock down a jumper... Huge box out by Cook to snare a rebound then he and Harden show great hustle a bit later to stop a fast break... Perfect play-call by Coach Brooks to send Westbrook on a down screen on Durant, then Harden hits Westbrook with an alley-oop when he frees up... Nice help defense from Durant on Aldridge in the lane to prevent a shot attempt, then Westbrook slides into the lane and makes a fancy pass to Cook for a corner 3-pointer... Cole Aldrich makes a steal to seal the game after an emphatic Ibaka block.