Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Bucks

THUNDER 109

BUCKS 89
3 Number of players for the Thunder who had seven rebounds each (Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison)

5 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka, part of the Thunder’s nine block performance

7 Steals by Thabo Sefolosha, a career-high and part of the Thunder’s ten steals on the night

8 Assists for Kevin Durant on the night, when the Thunder had 20 assists

10 Number of players who scored for the Thunder on the night, including five players who scored in double figures

23-for-25 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 8-for-8 by Kevin Durant and 6-for-7 by James Harden

26 Points for Russell Westbrook on the night, a game-high

44-35 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, including 13 offensive rebounds

The Thunder returns home for a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then hosts the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday before heading to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves on Saturday. The Thunder then heads to Los Angeles to play the Clippers again on Monday.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
It was a suffocating defensive effort that jump-started the Thunder to a 35-18 first quarter lead, and that was coupled with an unselfish offensive effort to give Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team a 109-89 victory on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks. With five different players in double figures and 10 total players in the scoring column, it was a complete team effort that led the way. Kevin Durant, who finished with a team-high eight assists, discussed the keys to victory.

“We defended and moved the basketball,” Durant said. “That’s that we hang our hats on. We came out and executed… We were just trying to play the right way. Be aggressive but be aggressive to make the right play. Sometimes I had a shot, sometimes I had a pass. I’m just glad my teammates were able to make some shots and they took the pressure off me a lot. I was just trying to find them as much as possible.”

Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook, who had a game-high 26 points, combined for 45 points, meaning that the rest of the Thunder lineup picked up the scoring slack and came through with big buckets from efficient offense. Leading the way were James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined for 21 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks, and finally, Thabo Sefolosha had 14 points, three rebounds, four assists and a career-high seven steals in addition to a rim-rocking dunk.

“It was great to see him come out there and play so well for us,” Durant said of Sefolosha. “Of course he always gives it to us on the defensive end, but on the offensive end he was great, knocking down shots, cutting, freeing us up with his cuts and also providing us with a nice slam.”

In addition to 2-for-4 shooting from the three-point line, Sefolosha was a major factor on the offensive end by spreading the floor, cutting to the hoop and finishing at the rim. Defensively, an expert effort on Monta Ellis was crucial, holding the prolific scorer to 3-for-12 shooting. While Ibaka’s five blocks in the first half were protecting the interior, Sefolosha’s dominance on the perimeter and his steals helped turn defense into offense.

“Thabo was all over, he was basically a one-man wrecking crew,” Brooks said. “He just caused havoc on the entire defensive end of the floor. But he gives us that effort every night. I thought all the guys, Serge did a good job, but defensively we did a really good job starting the game.”

The balanced offensive scoring and lock down defensive effort were all good signs of continued solid play on both ends of the floor by the Thunder. After winning six straight, the Thunder dropped three in a row to tough high-end playoff teams, while still playing impressive basketball. Now with two more wins under its belt, it can move forward into the final nine games of the season in order to sharpen things up heading into the playoffs.

“It was big for us, in a game on the road like this, I think it is important to come out strong and we did that,” Sefolosha told Thunder TV’s Kelly Crull after the game. “I think we passed the ball to each other very well and basically it was just a good overall night. I think my defense got me going offensively.”

TURNING POINT:
The turning point in this one happened extremely early, as the Thunder took a 16-10 lead with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter and turned it into a 33-12 lead with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter. That 17-2 run started with an emphatic dunk in the lane by Kevin Durant, who then made a steal and fed Russell Westbrook for a layup. As the run continued, Durant hit a three-pointer and Westbrook followed suit, then Thabo Sefolosha made a steal that ended in a layup and James Harden added a three-pointer for good measure. The Thunder forced four turnovers during the stretch in addition to seven missed shots and from there on out, the Bucks never got closer than ten points.

“We want to do that, that’s our game plan every game, to use defense to score points in transition,” Brooks said. “We are fast up and down the court at a lot of positions, and we have to do that, we have to play that way. We have to get steals out of our defense so we can score in transition and if we make them miss, the same thing.”

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong offensive rebounding by Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins on the very first possession both grabbing offensive rebounds to get a put-back, then Kevin Durant slings one cross-court to Thabo Sefolosha for a three-pointer… Perkins and Ibaka play a two-man game in the paint as Ibaka hits a floater in the lane, then Ibaka sets a great screen for Russell Westbrook to free him up for a jumper… Westbrook and Ibaka combine to make a steal, then Perkins picks up the ball and runs the entire court for a fast break layup… Ibaka forces a turnover, then he cleans up the offensive glass and puts it back in… Durant shakes and bakes to slam one home, then Westbrook makes a steal to get down the floor for a layup and Sefolosha tips a defensive board to himself and gets it to Durant for a three-pointer… Durant grabs a defensive board, then steps into the lane and throws a cross-court pass to Westbrook for a three-pointer… Ibaka saves a sure block with a bucket from behind, then Westbrook hustles to get his own rebound… Sefolosha makes a steal on the perimeter and takes it the length of the court for an easy layup, then Perkins makes a block and saves the ball… Durant drives and kicks to James Harden for a three-pointer, then Nick Collison saves a rebound back in to Durant who knocks down two free throws and blocks a shot to finish the first quarter… Collison slides into the lane and finishes at the rim, then Harden grabs a defensive board and scores on the other end thanks to a Nazr Mohammed screen… Derek Fisher gets the ball to Ibaka on the block, who gets to the other block and finishes with the foul, then Westbrook gets to the baseline and finds a cutting Ibaka for a slam dunk… Ibaka with a soaring block at the rim, then Westbrook assists a Harden three-pointer and a Durant dunk on back-to-back possessions… Really strong post-up move by Perkins to get down to the block and hit a turn-around, then Ibaka hits a mid-range jumper off a Perkins assist… Sefolosha hits Durant on a curl on an in-bounds play, then Westbrook drains a three-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounds.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Durant makes a pretty pass to Ibaka for a slam dunk, then makes a nice box out to grab a defensive board… Pretty give-and-go from Perkins to Sefolosha for an easy layup, then Westbrook knocks down a spinning jumper in the lane… Huge steal by Sefolosha, who then swings the ball to Westbrook for a three-pointer, then Durant hits an elbow jumper… A beautiful three-on-one fast break as Sefolosha throws a behind-the-back pass to Durant, who hits Westbrook for a layup… Perkins tips a defensive rebound to Durant, then Westbrook stops a 7-0 run with an elbow jumper… Collison tips a defensive rebound to himself, then the Thunder forces a 24-second shot clock violation… Harden gets a loose ball into his hands, races down court then backs it out for a drive to the lane with the Euro-step, then Sefolosha repeatedly tips a ball to himself on the defensive boards… Durant gets the ball in the high-post, then dribbles once and hits Sefolosha for a corner three-pointer, then Harden hits Sefolosha for a backdoor cut and a nasty slam dunk!... Durant swings the ball to Harden, who hits Fisher, who finds Collison underneath to draw a foul… Sefolosha makes a career-high seventh steal, then Durant posts up and hits Fisher for a long jumper… Great hustle by Collison on the offensive glass, then Fisher makes a nice floater in the lane after Harden tips another offensive rebound to him… Smart job by Harden to draw a foul on a three-point attempt, then Fisher hits a baseline jumper… Cole Aldrich makes a recovery block, then he outlets the ball as Lazar Hayward gets out onto the fast break to draw a foul… Hayward leads a fast break as he hits Fisher, who finds a trailing Aldrich for a big dunk… Hayward makes a slap steal and knocks it off the opponents’ foot… Strong rebound by Royal Ivey in traffic ends the game.



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