THUNDER 109
NUGGETS 97
1 The number of lead changes in the game, which had only one tie. After the Thunder broke a 22-22 tie, it never trailed again

7 Rebounds by Nick Collison to go along with eight points, two blocks and a steal

9 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka to go with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting

12-for-19 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, including a season-high tying five three pointers on six attempts. Durant finished with 32 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds

13 Points for Kevin Martin, who started the game 4-for-4 from the floor

15-for-27 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, good for 55.6 percent. The 15 threes are a Thunder record

33-23 Scoring differential in the Thunder’s favor in the third quarter

52.6 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the night, aided by 24 assists



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
LOS ANGELES -- The Thunder found a spark, then caught fire that left the team blazing hot for the rest of the game.

After falling behind early to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, the Thunder’s bench stepped up and kick-started a 17-2 run that created the only tie and lead change of the game. Behind 11 points from Kevin Martin during the run, stifling defensive pressure and teamwork on both ends of the floor, the Thunder took control. Then, in the fourth quarter when the game got tighter, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club made the little plays, like hustling for loose balls and boxing out, to earn a 109-97 victory.

“We got some offensive rebounds down the stretch and we only gave up two offensive rebounds in the second half,” Brooks said. “I thought we did a good job defensively. They’re a physical team.”

The energy the second unit of Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, DeAndre Liggins, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet combined for 21 points in the first half, most of which came during the emphatic run. Collison stepped up after some early foul trouble to Kendrick Perkins, snagging offensive rebounds and making heads up plays in the lane. He finished with eight points and seven rebounds, and his partners off the bench seemingly made play after play to keep the Clippers at bay.

“I give our guys credit, I thought our bench did a good job,” Brooks said. “Nick came in and stepped up and gave us some solid play. Liggins came in and gave us some good defense. Reggie hit a couple of buckets. K Mart (Martin) gave us some scoring.”

Liggins tipped an offensive rebound to himself, Thabeet made a sensational, momentum-changing block and Martin sandwiched a “pick-six” style steal and slam dunk in between a barrage of three three-pointers. For good measure, Jackson hit a mid-range jumper and added a strong drive into the paint to quell a Clippers run. More than just the individual offensive accomplishments of each man, it was the attitude, intensity and force with which the Thunder’s second unit played that flipped the game on its head.

“We are very confident in our bench,” Martin said. “They have a deep bench, but I think we’re just as confident as they are. They probably have the deepest bench in the league but we can compete too.”

Once the Thunder’s bench got things going, the good feelings carried over to the rest of the club, starting with leading man Kevin Durant. The man who was just selected to be an All-Star starter for the third straight season dropped 32 points on the night, including a scintillating 24 in the second half on 9-for-11 shooting, including 5-for-5 from behind the three-point line. He nailed two of his threes from the top of the key after Serge Ibaka and Collison grabbed offensive rebounds, and added a one-handed, driving slam dunk as an exclamation point.

“I saw multiple guys on drives and off of pick-and-rolls and I just tried to take what their defense was giving me,” Durant said. “I just tried to be aggressive and my shots started to fall. My teammates were getting offensive rebounds for threes and that got me going.”

Durant’s five three pointers tied a season-high, but he wasn’t the only one feeling it from downtown on the night. Martin, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook each hit three three-pointers and Ibaka knocked down his only attempt as the team set a Thunder record with 15 made three-pointers, coming on only 27 attempts. Brooks’ squad was making the extra pass all night, rotating the ball into the corner and finding the open man on drive-and-kicks, which helped rack up 24 assists on the evening.

“We want to always have good spacing, good offensive execution,” Brooks said. “Passing is a big part of every team and we want to be a good team. You have to continue to pass the ball. Some nights you’re going to make your shots. 15 threes, that’s an amazing shooting night… We were spreading the floor and our guys were doing a good job of finding open shooters and they were knocking them down.”

Despite the absence of Chris Paul for the Clippers, the Thunder’s foe came into the game with a 32-10 record, which was second best behind only the Thunder itself coming into the night. This was the third contest in a six-game road trip for Brooks’ club and an impressive bounce-back win. After tonight’s win against a quality opponent, the Thunder heads to Golden State feeling good and ready for a challenge in the second night of a back-to-back against the Warriors.

“We just wanted to play well,” Brooks said. “We have 82 games that we want to play well every night. We don’t put more emphasis on one game… We just focus on playing well every night.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder fell behind early, but used a 17-2 run to end the first quarter and start the second quarter to flip the game into its favor. Trailing 22-14 with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter, the Thunder got a jumper from Nick Collison then back to back three-pointers by Kevin Martin to end the quarter on an 8-0 run. During that stretch the Thunder forced a turnover and two missed shots. To start the second quarter the Clippers got a bucket, but Martin buried another three pointer, Serge Ibaka hit a runner, Martin made a steal and scored then Reggie Jackson hit a jumper. Meanwhile the Thunder forced a missed shot and two turnovers to eventually take a 31-24 lead.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Good awareness by Nick Collison to tip in a missed jumper. Slick driving pass from Durant to Ibaka for a dunk. Good mid-air decision by Westbrook to take the shot then pass to Ibaka for a jumper. Collison with good low post defense to force a travel. DeAndre Liggins hustles to tip an offensive rebound to himself, then swings it to Martin for three. Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball and comes away with it. Strong team defense all around as the Thunder forces a shot clock violation.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Perfect drive and dish by Durant to get into the lane and hit Sefolosha for a corner three. Great screens by Collison and Ibaka to free up Durant for a drive and dish to Sefolosha for three. Westbrook with a great touch pass to rotate the ball into the corner for a three. Wonderful transition defense by the Thunder to break up a fast break and turn it into its own pitch-ahead layup. Perfect man-to-man defense by Jackson to force a Jamal Crawford miss. Good positioning by Martin to snag a huge defensive rebound.



“We play hard every night. We don’t take nights off, we don’t take practices off or shoot-arounds off. We’re committed to playing hard, playing aggressive, playing with force and playing together.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

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