THUNDER 97
HEAT 103
4-for-9 Three-point shooting by Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin combined

+5 Rebounding edge for the Thunder on the night, including +2 on the offensive boards

11 Rebounds for Russell Westbrook, including 6 on the offensive end

28.6 Three-point shooting percentage the Thunder held the heat to on the night

30 Points combined for Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin on 10-for-20 shooting

32-for-38 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night, good for 84.2 percent

33 Points for Kevin Durant, on 11-for-21 shooting from the field and 9-for-11 shooting from the free throw line

84 Points for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin on the night combined

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
MIAMI – On the road, in a tough environment against one of the best teams in the NBA, the Thunder had two cracks at a game-tying three-pointer.

Both shots by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the closing possession hit off the iron and just out, leading to Miami Heat free throws that ended the game in a 102-97 loss for the Thunder. After pulling within one point on two separate occasions in the final 45 seconds, the Thunder missed out on getting a stop- or the good fortune of a Heat missed free throw- in order to get a better shot at the win. Throughout the night the Thunder fought and battled on every single possession, which Head Coach Scott Brooks identified as his biggest takeaway of the night.

“Our guys are competitors,” Brooks said. “I’m proud of how they compete and they never let up. Never. I’ve never been disappointed in this team with how they compete… They came back and fought when things weren’t going well for us and gave ourselves a chance to tie the game up.”

Things didn’t start so easily for the Thunder as the Heat jumped out to a 13-2 advantage and remained in control for most of the first half. Brooks’ squad, however, continuously chipped away throughout the first half before eventually taking the lead in the third quarter. There were eight lead changes and nine ties in the ball game, a testament to how hard-fought it was and the intensity both teams gave to every possession.

“I thought we did a good job of fighting back and giving ourselves a chance to win the game,” Brooks said. “I’m proud of our guys. We played one of the best basketball teams on their home floor. It was a great game.”

The Thunder managed to turn the game around completely in the third quarter, outscoring the Heat by four while holding its opponent to a meager 27.8 percent shooting in those 12 minutes. Meanwhile on the offensive end, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 20 points in the quarter as Serge Ibaka snagged five of his six rebounds in that quarter as well.

“We managed the game well in that second half,” Brooks said. “We got good shots, we got good opportunities with our defense with some steals and some transition, but I thought Kevin was good. Kevin was aggressive. Russell set some great screens for him and got him open. He’s an aggressive player. It was a well-played game on both sides.”

Joining Ibaka on the boards were Durant and Westbrook, who combined to grab 12 rebounds in the second half alone, with the 6-foot-3 Westbrook ending up as the game’s leading rebounder with 11. Durant scored 25 of his 33 total points in the second half, on 9-for-17 shooting, while also knocking down 6-of-7 free throw attempts and grabbing five rebounds. It was his creating and shot-making, particularly down the stretch, that helped the Thunder have a chance late.

“We’ve seen it for six years that he has seen it all and he’s seen the best defenders on him, and he still scores his points,” Brooks said. “That’s what he does, and that’s what makes him a special player. He’s very unique and he’s such a great teammate, you want him to have success because of how hard he works.”

The late game offensive prowess of Durant was one of the many reasons it was certainly an entertaining and exciting Christmas Day affair for the Thunder and the Heat, but to Brooks and the rest of the team, it is just another game they can all use to improve each and every day. The takeaways, both positive and negative, will be important as the team moves on to its Thursday night home clash against the Dallas Mavericks.

“All in all, that was a great game to coach, a great game to watch,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately we didn’t come away with the win but we did a lot of good things that we can take away to the next game.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder made a stop on a steal, then Kevin Durant drove and made a dunk to bring the Thunder within one at 96-95 with 44 seconds remaining. From there the Heat was able to keep the Thunder at bay by executing to get a dunk. After Durant again pulled the Thunder within one point with a jumper with 15 seconds to go, Ray Allen knocked down two free throws. Durant’s three-pointer barely missed, then Russell Westbrook shot a last-second three-pointer through contact that hit off the rim as well. Miami converted free throws to seal the game.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Pretty pick-and-roll by Westbrook and Durant that leads to a Durant to Perkins dunk. Sefolosha smartly anticipates a back-door cut and makes a steal. Westbrook blows up a play designed for Ray Allen by jumping into the passing lane and then leaping to deny the pass. Jackson dives into the post and forces a bad pass turnover. Sefolosha sneaks behind and pokes the ball free to create a fast break for the Thunder.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Beautiful pump-fake, one-dribble move to the basket by Ibaka for a layup. Incredible one-on-one defese by Ibaka on Bosh to stay in front and swat his shot. Perfect pump fake by Martin to free himself up for a much needed three pointer. Durant masterfully slides and glides through the lane to get to the bucket for a layup. Perkins fights and hustles on the offensive boards to give the Thunder another possession.



“I knew we would always come back. That’s how we play. that’s how we’re wired. We’re a very physically and mentally tough team. We had a bad start but we fought and clawed.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
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