Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Hornets

HORNETS 91

THUNDER 101
7 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka in the first quarter, including four in the first three minutes. His seven equaled the entire Hornets team.

10 Points by Serge Ibaka in the first quarter, including four second-chance points.

13 First-half assists by the Thunder on 20 made baskets

15 Total assists by the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

33 Trips to the free-throw line by the Thunder, which made 28 of its attempts.

60.6% Shooting percentage by the Thunder in the first half.

100.0% Shooting percentage Kevin Durant in the first half from both the field and the line. It was the first time in his career that he was perfect shooting the ball through the first half.

The Thunder will once again hit the road as it travels to Golden State to take on the Warriors on Friday night. Game time is 9:30 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder faces a stretch with eight of its next nine games on the road. After the game against the Warriors, the Thunder heads to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Monday night before traveling to Dallas to play the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

“I think the way we play at home, we have to start taking it on the road every night,” center Kendrick Perkins said. “It’s going to take great focus, great leadership. Guys have to get their rest and on the road and I think the rest will take care of itself.”

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
The lasting image of the Thunder's 101-91 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night was an exchange in the second quarter when the Thunder made six passes on one possession. James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka all touched the ball before Kendrick Perkins flashed open in the post and drew a foul. The Thunder maximized its chances of getting a high-percentage shot and it was were rewarded with two free-throw attempts. The Thunder trotted to the free-throw line 33 times to go along with 21 assists on 34 made baskets. The ball was being shared in Chesapeake Energy Arena, and that ball movement was critical to a Thunder victory.

"That's one of our keys to every game, to continue to attack the paint and get paint shots, rim shots and get to the free-throw line," Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "We did that tonight. That's how we play. We can never be a team that settles for the jump shot. We have some good jump shooters, but we still have to be able to have the combination of both."

Durant was 7-for-7 from the line, which was a part of his 5-for-5 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line stat line at halftime. Harden finished 9 of 10 from the line and Westbrook was 6 of 9. By attacking the rim and going into the Hornets' bulky front court, the Thunder was able to draw contact and find ways to score inside the paint. Between 44 points in the paint and 28 points at the line, the Thunder was intent on taking its game right at the Hornets.

"We made the extra pass and guys were being aggressive in attacking the rim," Durant said. "So, that put pressure on their defense and we were able to get some calls."

Whether it was Westbrook and Durant executing a give-and-go alley-oop to perfection or Durant finding Reggie Jackson for an open jump shot to beat the first-quarter buzzer, the Thunder made a concerted effort to swing the ball and get the Hornets' big men moving to try to create space in the lane. Harden, who finished with six assists, found the sharp-shooting Daequan Cook on three separate occasions for 3-pointers. One came on a seemingly scripted cross-court pass after Nick Collison set a back screen for Cook, and another occurred as Cook curled around a screen at the top of the key, squared up, and fired.

"I think we're a lot better when we have ball movement," Harden said. "We have so many guys who can create opportunities for each other, so when we move the ball it's tough for defenses to stop us. Daequan got me a couple of those assists with those threes."

Brooks said those 3-pointers by Cook all came at critical moments during the contest, and were all a part of Thunder runs. The entire game was full of scoring surges by each team, particularly the first quarter, as the Thunder jumped out to a 10-2 lead before the Hornets replied with a 7-0 run of their own. With the score at 16-15, Brooks took a time out, sat down his guys and the team responded by embarking on an 8-1 run, which helped give the Thunder a 31-22 lead at the end of the first 12 minutes. The Thunder lead stayed between eight and 14 points for most of the second and third quarters, but once the fourth quarter arrived the Hornets ramped up the intensity and made it a close one. The lead dropped to as low as two points early in the fourth quarter, and was just a four-point margin with 4:17 remaining before the Thunder pulled away.

"Going into this game, we knew that they were going to play scrappy basketball," Brooks said. "That's how they've been playing. ... We knew that we were going to be in for a tough game and they proved it tonight that that's how they play, that's their brand of basketball. ... We were moving the basketball and it didn't look good at times because they play hard. Their inside guys are big and they make you really play good basketball. They make you make the extra pass, and we did that tonight. Twenty-one assists, we can live with that."

Harden dropped one of his half-dozen assists to a dunking Collison, as the duo continue to forge a burgeoning relationship on the court, while Westbrook and Collison found Ibaka early as the Congo native had 10 points and seven assists before the end of the first quarter. As the season moves along, the Thunder hopes to build on its performance and continue to share the ball.

"When we move the ball, it's tough to guard us," Harden said. "I think we sometimes get turnovers by over-dribbling or just doing too much, but when we move the ball and everybody touches it and swings it from side to side, bigs get easy dunks and it's very tough to guard us. It's still early in the season, we have a long way to go so we're just trying to get better at it every single game."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point came late in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder held a 93-89 lead with 4:17 left in the game. Two Russell Westbrook free throws pushed the lead to six, then the Thunder defense forced Marco Belinelli into a missed 3-point jump shot. From there, Westbrook got to the rim for an easy layup off a great offensive set where Kendrick Perkins slipped a screen, received a pass from Kevin Durant, wheeled and hit a cutting Westbrook. New Orleans took a time out to try to stop the run, but after two missed Hornets shots and a Durant block, Trevor Ariza lost the ball to Perkins, who tossed it up-court to James Harden, who saw a flashing Durant for an alley-oop dunk that gave the Thunder a 10-point lead and essentially ended the game with 2:19 remaining. The 6-0 run happened in less than two minutes.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Serge Ibaka forcing Marco Belinelli to shoot it too high off the glass because of his insanely long reach... Ibaka finally helping both teams get on the scoreboard with an offensive rebound and slam dunk... Ibaka getting his fourth rebound only 3 minutes into the game... A picture-perfect two-on-one, give-and-go fast break between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for a Durant dunk... An amazing behind the back save by Kendrick Perkins off an Ibaka miss. Ibaka then finished the play with a rebound and a hook shot... Westbrook tossing a great over-the-head pass to Ibaka off a pick and roll to set up a jumper... Great anticipation by Westbrook to steal the ball and dish it to Durant, who rotated it to James Harden, who drew a foul... Durant slicing through the lane, drawing a defender and kicking it to Harden for a 3-pointer... Reggie Jackson knocking down a buzzer-beating jumpshot as the buzzer sounded at the end of the first quarter... Nazr Mohammed standing tall on a Xavier Henry drive then baseball-passing the outlet to a streaking Harden... Huge steal in the backcourt by Jackson, who drove to the bucket and kicked it to Collison for a layup-and-one... A perfect back screen by Collison to set up a Daequan Cook relocation to receive a cross-court pass from Harden. Cook knocked down the 3-pointer... Harden then found Cook for his third assist of the night as Cook curled around a screen and knocked down a triple... Precise job by the Thunder offense of rotating the ball. Seemed like six passes on one possession until Perkins got the ball on the low block and got fouled... Incredible vision by Perkins to find Ibaka under the hoop for a short hook shot... On the next possession, Ibaka spun around after setting a backscreen, and Westbrook fired the ball to him for an open dunk.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Thabo Sefolosha tapping a defensive rebound out to Westbrook, who took was able to push the tempo... Durant going around a Perkins screen and finding Sefolosha in the corner for a wide-open three pointer. Sefolosha came into the game 2nd in the NBA in 3point shooting percentage... Ibaka getting back to stop a 3-on-2 fast break with a massive block, then Perkins following it up on the other end with a dunk. That was a four-point swing that won over the crowd... An acrobatic steal by Westbrook, who spun and ran with the ball, drawing a foul on the fast break... Harden with a nice drop off pass to Collison who hesitated and then dunked... Durant with a diving save that led to a Jackson run-out... After Jackson missed a layup he got the ball back on a sneaky back-court steal... Cook making the extra pass to Jackson, who hit a floater in the lane... Collison streaking back for a block in transition to prevent an easy layup... A fever pitch in Chesapeake Energy Arena after Harden's third assist to Cook for a 3-pointer... Westbrook getting to the basket after New Orleans cut it to a 2-pont deficit, then knocking down a bank shot on the next possession... Durant coming up with a tip-toeing rebound, saving it to Collison, who sent it up-court to Harden for a "Euro-step" lay-in... Durant sprinting back to block a lay-up attempt, then Collison tipping-out an offensive rebound to Harden... Incredible passing from Durant to Perkins to a cutting Westbrook to get a lay-up... After a steal and over-the-head pass by Perkins to Harden, Harden threw an alley-oop to Durant for a two-handed slam... A crafty leaner by Durant to put the Thunder up 10 points with under two minutes remaining... Harden getting back on defense to force a New Orleans turnover... Great anticipation by Westbrook to steal the ball off a save attempt by Trevor Ariza to seal the victory.