HORNETS88
THUNDER92
3 Steals by Eric Maynor, to go along with four assists, all in the second half

6 Rebounds by Kevin Martin, including four in the second half. Martin also had 12 of his 17 points in the second half

9 Assists by Russell Westbrook, including 7 of the team’s 14 second-half assists

10:58 Minutes played by Reggie Jackson, who provided a spark with good defense, 5 points and 2 rebounds

34-26 Point advantage for the Thunder in the fourth quarter, when the team shot a blistering 70.6 percent from the floor

35 Points for Kevin Durant, including 25 after halftime. He also had 9 rebounds.

39.8 Field goal percentage the Thunder held the Hornets to throughout the night

57.1 Shooting percentage for the Thunder during the second half against the Hornets, in addition to a 21-17 rebounding advantage

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
When shots aren’t falling, it takes mental toughness to grind out enough defensive stops to stay in the game.

The Thunder had a tough offensive night, particularly in the first half when it only scored 36 points, but it showed the resiliency and fortitude to keep the New Orleans Hornets in check just long enough for its offense to heat up. The end result of that perseverance was a 92-88 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena, which helped propel the Thunder to an 18-4 start and its ninth straight victory. Despite the off-kilter start to the game, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club shook it off with every possession and made the right plays on both ends of the floor to get the win.

“We got aggressive, and I thought we passed the ball much better, but we were making shots,” Brooks said. “Our defensive intensity picked up. It was solid in the first half, but I thought it even picked up more so in the second half. Our spacing, our play calling, our running into sets, our pick and roll play was good offensively, and we started making some shots.”

On the night the Thunder managed to hold the Hornets to a meager 39.8 percent shooting from the floor, including 35.9 percent in the second half. Despite shots not falling at the normal consistency from nearly everyone on the floor besides Kevin Durant, who finished with 35 points, the Thunder buckled down, committed to getting defensive stops by forcing tough shots, then rebounded and tried again on the offensive end.

“We’re a veteran team,” Durant said. “We’ve been through it before and we know that. We’ve been through games where we weren’t making shots and we let it affect our defense. Every time we were at the huddle we kept saying to just keep sticking with the defense and the offense will come around.”

Eventually that defense led to offense as the Thunder outscored the Hornets 14-7 in fast break points, made nine steals and blocked eight shots that also led to easier buckets. Those staunch defensive possessions sparked the offense as it racked up 14 second half assists, including seven by Russell Westbrook and four by Eric Maynor during the final 24 minutes of play.

It was up to each player on the Thunder roster to step up and make at least one game-changing play. Whether it was Kevin Martin, Nick Collison or Reggie Jackson, it seemed that despite the early adversity, the Thunder was locked in and focused on capturing another home victory.

“We have fourteen guys that can play NBA basketball but you can’t play all fourteen,” Brooks said. “You can’t play everyone on the team but everyone has to be ready. Whether it’s Reggie, Jeremy (Lamb), Perry (Jones) or the other guys that haven’t played much this year, they have to be ready.”

Martin chipped in 17 points, including eight in the fourth quarter alone, but it was the toughness he showed by grabbing six rebounds that was a major key down the stretch for the Thunder. Collison played 26 minutes, scoring six points, grabbing five rebounds, making a steal and drawing a momentum-changing charge. It was the play of Jackson, however, that proved to be the biggest spark for the Thunder.

“He (Reggie) did a good job,” Brooks said. “That’s what I expected. That’s what he expects out of himself. Give him credit. He stayed ready and he had an opportunity tonight. He had a big three but I thought his defense was really terrific tonight.”

He only played 10:58, but the Thunder went on a 16-2 run beginning when he checked in with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter. Brooks’ squad ramped up the defensive intensity to another level and it started with Jackson hounding the Hornets’ Austin Rivers, which forced a difficult pass and a Martin steal and fast break layup.

The Thunder would go on to force two more turnovers and a stretch of five straight missed shots during that stretch at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which helped the Thunder dig out of an 11-point hole and wrestle for the lead with the Hornets until getting a final defensive stop with just 2.9 seconds remaining. Jackson’s energy and lift off the bench was an added boost to a Thunder squad that needed some extra juice to pull out the victory.

“I just tried to help and track their big guys who were rolling as much as possible,” Jackson said. “We just tried to make them take tough, contested perimeter shots… Just getting defensive stops and trying to get turnovers and get out. It was basically the thought that our defense would transfer into our offense.”

Turning Point:
The Hornets bumped its lead up to 11, the biggest of the night, when the Thunder turned the game around. Trailing 62-51, Reggie Jackson checked in for the Thunder between two made Kevin Durant free throws. Immediately after that, the Thunder snagged two steals, got a fast break layup by Kevin Martin and then a Jackson three-pointer to make it a four-point game. To start the fourth quarter the Thunder got a jumper from Kevin Durant off an Eric Maynor assits, tow Martin free throws then a martin three-pointer from Maynor to snag a one point lead. The 16-2 run was capped by the third consecutive Maynor assist, as he hit Durant on a behind-the-back flip pass for a fast break jam.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Beautiful passing as Westbrook slipped a pass to a rolling Durant who found Ibaka at the dunker spot for a layup plus the foul. Durant positions himself perfectly along the defensive baseline to make a steal, then throws a crisp bounce pass to Kevin Martin, who dishes to Ibaka for a floater. Westbrook hustles to rebound his own missed driving layup. Maynor with incredible hustle and quick hands to slap the ball away for a steal, then he saves it in bounds.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Great start to the half as Perkins made a steal, led the break and dished to Ibaka, who hit a cutting Westbrook for a dunk. Reggie Jackson checks in and puts pressure on the ball, then Martin makes a steal that leads to a layup. Great defense from Jackson who forces an air ball. Incredible play as Maynor and Durant force a steal, Maynor flips a no-look, behind the back pass to Durant to start the break, then Durant finishes it off with a slam. Collison gets back in pick-and-roll defense and draws a charge.



“We were making the right plays we just weren’t finishing shots. We knew that was going to be a long game so we stuck with it on the defensive end and had faith in our offense and were able to make some shots.” – Kevin Durant