8 Steals by the Thunder, including one by seven different players.
11 Number of players for the Thunder who got into the scoring column
14 Points for Perry Jones to go with nine rebounds, both of which were career-highs
23 Points for Reggie Jackson, a career-high, to go with six rebounds and five assists
41 Minutes played by Jeremy Lamb who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds
42.4 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Bucks to on the night
50-44 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, where it shot 25-for-41
April 17th, 2013
One of the most difficult things for an organization experience success to do is sustain it.
For the Thunder, it’s essential to take full advantage of any opportunities to improve and develop with the future in mind, while still maintaining a high level of play in the present. During Wednesday night’s 95-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the regular season finale, the Thunder was able to give much needed rest to its main rotation players. As a result, that allowed Head Coach Scott Brooks’ rookies and second-year men to gain valuable experience. The youngest section of the Thunder squad that saw the floor may have lost the game, but it attacked with the same energy and intensity as the starters would.
“I thought the effort was good,” Brooks said. “You have to fight through the fatigue and I thought they did that tonight. That second half we didn’t make a lot of shots but we did a lot of good things and a lot of things that I look at that are important that I saw tonight.”
The Thunder’s own 2012 first-round draft pick, Perry Jones, earned his first career start and performed well, totaling career-highs with 14 points, nine rebounds and 39 minutes played. Jeremy Lamb played a team-high and career-high 41 minutes while scoring 13 points and snagging seven rebounds. In addition, Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins also had the chance to play 17-plus minutes each and make a mark on the game. The entire game, the Thunder’s starters were very active, standing and cheering from the bench and also offering pointers.
“We all got a chance to play,” Lamb, another rookie, said. “Perry got a chance to start… It was just good to be able to be on the floor and have those guys cheer for us.”
The four youngest members of the Thunder squad had a chance to play tonight with the team’s eldest member, Derek Fisher. As someone who has seen everything NBA basketball can throw one’s way, Fisher came away impressed with how the quartet of Thunder players responded to big minutes. They’ve been practicing with the main squad and playing in games for the Tulsa 66ers, but the Thunder’s rookies and second-year men played the right way, even if it wasn’t perfect.
“I thought the effort, the mindset and the intent was right,” Fisher said. “We lost the game, but you can’t buy that type of experience for a lot of our young guys. We’re going to obviously need Reggie, who plays a lot of minutes, but also some of our other guys – Perry, Jeremy, DeAndre, Daniel. You never know, for two minutes in a game, how important somebody can be.”
That mindset and attitude, that every piece of the puzzle maters, is part of the reason why the Thunder invests so much in developing young players and finding ways to impact winning on the margins. One area that has been a seemingly guaranteed positive every single night has been the Thunder’s fans who fill the seats at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but also show support all over Oklahoma City and throughout the country. Heading into the Playoffs, the Thunder knows going into each its home crowd will be there to pick them up, spark a rally and push the momentum even further.
“It is a special place,” Brooks said. “They cheer us on, they know the game and they know how hard our guys work. It is a great environment and a great environment to coach in, play in and to watch. It is a family environment and families love coming to the games. The support we see around the city and the fans that don’t come to the games, it’s overwhelming at times but our guys really love it and appreciate it.”
The Thunder led by a score of 68-57 with 3:14 left in the third quarter, but over the next nine minutes of play, the Bucks went on a 29-6 run to take an 86-74 lead with 6:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. It started with six straight points from John Henson, a Gustavo Ayon bucket and an Ish Smith three-pointer to end the quarter. Reggie Jackson quelled the 11-0 burst with a floater, but the Bucks went on another 14-2 run after that behind a JJ Redick three-pointer and three-point play. The Thunder battled back to within six but couldn’t make it any closer.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Thunder plays zone defense and rotates well on the first possession of the game to get a stop. Thabeet fights on the offensive glass to snag an offensive rebound, then kicks out for a three. Perfect cut by Thabeet and nice vision by Sefolosha to get an easy bucket. Perfect screen off the ball by Ibaka after Westbrook directed traffic to free up Sefolosha for three. Jones boxes out hard and lets the ball roll out of bounds while holding off a defender to keep possession.
Plays the box score won't show:
Well executed pick-and-pop between Jackson and Jones gets the latter an easy elbow jumper. Thabeet just outworks his man to snag an offensive rebound and put it back for a bucket. Good defensive positioning by Fisher on the perimeter draws an offensive foul against the Bucks. Jackson calls out a play that gets run to perfection and allows him to get to the rim. Quick hands by Jackson in the lane forces a turnover and a run-out.
“I thought there were some good positive things out there and I thought there were some things that we could definitely work on… All in all just focusing on what we have ahead and the playoffs. We had a good regular season and it is just time to move ahead and look to the next step.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks