Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Heat

HEAT 87

THUNDER 103
5 Number of players who had 13-or-more points for the Thunder tonight

8 Assists for Kevin Durant on the night, one shy of his career-high. Durant finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists

10 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka to go with his 19 points, for another double-double

13 Steals by the Thunder on the night, including three from Thabo Sefolosha

16 Points for Kendrick Perkins, eclipsing his season-high

26 Assists on the night for the Thunder on 39 made baskets, meaning two-thirds of Thunder made shots were assisted

28 Points scored by the Thunder off of 21 forced Miami turnovers

52.7 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the night, including 54.5 percent shooting from three-point land

The Thunder start a quick road trip when it heads to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Game time is 9:-0 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then heads to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Thursday, then comes home to host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
On the very first play of the game, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook made an aggressive and acrobatic steal that sent the Thunder the other direction. It was one of 13 times the Thunder stole the ball from the Miami Heat in its 103-87 victory that featured the Thunder forcing 21 Miami turnovers that led to 28 points. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Thunder used its defense to wrestle control of the game away in the second quarter, and never relented on the defensive end. Center Kendrick Perkins said that it was one of the perimeter defenders' best games of the season, and Head Coach Scott Brooks agreed that it was the job players like Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook did on the outside that kept the Heat out of the lane.

"We're a team with active hands," Brooks said. "When we're getting into a defensive stance and all four guys are in that stance and one guy on the ball, there are not a lot of opportunities to score int he paint, and that's how we want to play. We had a lot of steals... Our defense was good, especially in that fourth quarter, we could have gone either way, but we had a really great defensive game."

The Heat tried to make a game of it again, but could never get the Thunder lead under eight points since the Thunder did a great job of continuing to answer Miami buckets. In the fourth quarter Serge Ibaka grabbed one of his ten rebounds, this one on the offensive glass, and he slammed it home for two of his 19 points on the night. Between Ibaka and Perkins, who scored a season-high 16 points, the Thunder's front court duo shot a remarkable 16-for-21 from the field on the night for 35 points and 16 rebounds. Kevin Durant did a great job of feeding the big men up front all night on his way to eight assists, one shy of his career-high.

"Those guys do such a great job playing off everybody," Durant said of Perkins and Ibaka. "They are bigs that do not need the ball in their hands all the time to score. They get offensive rebounds, they get into the paint and Serge is such a great jump shooter. He makes it easy on me. They did a great job tonight not only on offense, but on defense as well."

It wasn't just Durant who was moving the ball tonight, as Russell Westbrook and James Harden both also finished with six assists. In all, the Thunder had 26 assists on 39 made baskets and that precise and efficient ball movement was the key to the game on offense. Keeping players like LeBron James, who shot 8-for-18, and Dwyane Wade, who only attempted 10 shots, was also critical. The entire Thunder defense was tied on a string, with players rotating and hedging out on screens just enough to clog up driving lanes and force tough two-point shots. After a torrid first half shooting-wise for both teams, the Thunder held Miami to only 33.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. After the game, Sefolosha explained why the defense was so special in the second half.

"Just helping one another,' Sefolosha said. "Everyone was in tune and defensively we were talking a lot out there. We just played a high-energy game... They are a physical team and we wanted to match that physicality and we did that tonight. We like playing like that and we need to keep doing that."

Everybody who touched the court made an impact on the defensive end, but for the Thunder it was also a special night on offense with five players scoring in double figures. The balanced scoring, as Perkins explained, could be an added bonus later in the season when the defense is ratcheted up and teams try to take away the Thunder's primary scorer's. If players like Perkins and Ibaka can continue to execute within the flow of the offense, it could be a helpful weapon moving forward.

"Obviously we have James, KD and Russ as our scorer's and playmakers," Perkins said. "Going into the playoffs, you never know which one of your role players will step up and have that big night for you. So we're going to need every guy going into the playoffs to have that confidence at a high level. You never know which guy you might need or what guy they may be helping off of or double-teaming off of. Each guy needs to have that confidence."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point for the Thunder occurred late in the second quarter, when it embarked on a 12-2 run that opened up the ball game. Leading 43-40 with 4:43 remaining in the half, the Thunder strung together four straight made free throw attempts from James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha, then got easy shots at the rim from Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant and Harden, with a 14-foot jumper by Durant sprinkled in for good measure. All four of the made field goals by the Thunder were assisted during the stretch, and defensively the Thunder forced the Heat into four turnovers and a missed shot during the stretch. The Thunder then led 55-42 with 2:01 remaining in the half, and the Heat never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.

"That was a big part of the game," Brooks said. "That's one of the things we tell our guys. Start the game off, close the game off at halftime and do the same thing in the third and fourth quarters. James had a terrific second quarter. He's one of our good playmakers."

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Russell Westbrook makes an athletic steal to start the game, saving the ball in bounds then Kevin Durant plays nice defense on LeBron James to force a missed shot that Kendrick Perkins cleans up on the boards... Westbrook speeds down court then drops a pass off to Serge Ibaka for a slam dunk... Durant comes off a curl off a set play and hits Perkins in the post for a solid turn-around jumper... Ibaka jab steps his defender then buries a mid-range jumper followed by a super drive-and-dish from Durant to Perkins for a dunk... Durant pops off a screen from the bigs and Westbrook hits hit for a 3-pointer, then Ibaka grabs a defensive board and delivers a perfect outlet pass that Durant finishes with a layup on the other end... Thabo Sefolosha opens up the scoring with a great steal by jumping the passing lane... Beautiful pump fake from James Harden to draw the defense and dish to Perkins for a layup then Durant makes an amazing bounce pass to Perkins for another dunk... After a tough defensive possession, Harden comes away with a loose ball and soars to the other end of the court for a dunk... Nazr Mohammed with a solid box out to grab a defensive board, then Wesatbrook tips a loose rebound out to Harden who finishes with the foul... Nick Collison gets redemption from an earlier foul call and draws a charge on Dwyane Wade, then Westbrook knocks down his typical elbow jumper... Mohammed with a pump fake then drive into the lane.. Durant knocks down a 3-pointer then Perkins stays tough to snare a rebound on defense... Harden makes a steal then draws a foul to get two free throw attempts... Sefolosha makes a steal then drives down the court to draw a foul, then Durant drives and dishes to Perkins for a dunk again... Incredible push-ahead pass from Harden to Durant, who finishes acrobatically on the fast break... Sefolosha makes a steal, then Harden saves a loose ball and Durant hits a jumper as the shot clock expired, then Perkins makes a steal and Durant pitches to Harden for a layup... Then Durant hits a 3-pointer with just seconds remaining in the half!

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Two steals in a row for the Thunder defense, then Durant drives to the hoop and gets fouled... Nice job of containing by Durant on defense, then Ibaka boxes out to get the board... Pretty passing inside by Perkins to hit Ibaka for a slam dunk as the shot clock expired then Sefolosha grabs a loose ball and Westbrook hits Durant for an incredible alley-oop dunk... Durant and Ibaka do a great job of hedging and taking up space on a pick and roll, then Ibaka cleans up the offensive glass for a put-back... Westbrook makes a steal then slams one home on the ensuing one-man fast break... Durant takes a screen from Ibaka then rewards him with a bounce pass for a jumper... Harden steps through a double team to find Durant for a 3-pointer from the wing then Collison pressures Wade into a turnover on the other end... Well-executed drive and kick from Durant to Harden for a wide open 3-pointer... Westbrook makes a steal then drives to the other end to get two free throw attempts... Westbrook stays agressive and draws a foul, then Harden slinks to the rim, then the duo combine to make a steal and Ibaka draws a foul on the fast break... Derek Fisher makes a big hustle play to stop a sure LeBron James dunk and force a turnover... Ibaka with an amazing save of an offensive rebound, then Harden rewards him by hitting him for a mid-range jumper when he got up off the floor... Perkins with tough interior defense then Harden makes a big defensive rebound then Ibaka rifles a pass to Perkins for a jam... On the next possession Perkins forces a turnover down low then is the beneficiary of another nice dish from Westbrook for a dunk... Ibaka swats a shot, then Durant grabs a defensive board that leads to a 3-pointer, followed by an Ibaka offensive rebound and slam.