HORNETS 74
THUNDER 119
2 Steals for Ronnie Brewer, to go along with five points and four rebounds in his Thunder debut

9 Points for Perry Jones, a career-high, on 3-for-5 shooting

9-for-11 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who scored 18 points and added seven rebounds and three blocks

10 Assists for Kevin Durant to go with 18 points and 11 rebounds for his third career triple double

14 Points for Reggie Jackson, a career-high, along with three assists

29 Points for Russell Westbrook, who converted 12-of-12 free throw attempts

48-25 The Thunder’s rebounding margin, its largest advantage of the year

52-34 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder, which shot 55.3 percent from the field

GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
Feb. 27th, 2013

RECAP:
Some nights in the NBA, everything just clicks.

That’s how it went for the Thunder on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets, as it tied its largest margin of victory on the season with a 119-74 victory. The Thunder got off to a hot start and built a double-digit lead, then when it got close late in the second quarter Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club turned on the jets to go on a 21-4 run to break the game open for good. It started on the defensive end for the Thunder, who held the Hornets to 35.1 percent shooting, much to the excitement of defensive leaders like Thabo Sefolosha.

“Everything,” Sefolosha said when asked what he liked about the effort. “The way we talk, the way we play with passion, and the way we share the ball offensively. I think we feed off of our defense and I think that is great.”

Over the course of the season the Thunder has been searching for that consistency on the defensive end, not only from game to game but half-to-half and quarter-to-quarter. Putting together a full four quarters and 48 minutes worth of communicative, helping, effort-filled defense is something team leaders like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison want to see, not to mention their head coach.

“We’ve had it the last couple games,” Brooks said. “It’s fun to see. It’s a good brand of basketball. That’s how we play. I like what we did tonight.”

Fortunately for the Thunder, those nights when the defense has been its staunchest has also led to an offensive explosion, like it did tonight. When the team gets stops by forcing turnovers or rebounding misses, it results in lopsided rebounding margins (48-25 tonight) and points in the paint differentials (52-34 tonight). Those more efficient looks resulted in a 55.3 shooting percentage on the night, with Westbrook leading the way with 29 points, many of which came after defensive stands.

“We are doing great on defense,” Westbrook said. “We are playing off our defense and getting stops and let the offense take care of itself…It all starts with defense regardless of what we are doing offensively. It all starts with defense.”

There was a moment in this one where the offense wasn’t completely clicking on all cylinders, when the Hornets switched to a zone defense mid-way through the second quarter. It didn’t take long for the Thunder to analyze the situation and adjust accordingly, using back-to-back three-pointers by Durant and Kevin Martin off drive-and-kicks to open the flood gates of that 21-4 run.

On the night, Durant finished with his third career triple-double in only 27 minutes. His 10 assists were a part of 27 total for the team, which showed how potent it can be when it shares the ball and makes plays for one another.

“Once we penetrate and move the ball, it makes it easier to kind of get through that zone,” Durant said. “They threw it at us and we had a few possessions where we were stagnant and the ball was getting sticky, but after that we figured it out. That’s the best part about our team, we get things and we make adjustments throughout the game.”

The way Durant arrived at his triple-double was important as the sixth year pro continues to develop as a leader for this young Thunder squad. Even veterans like Derek Fisher have noticed the way Durant carries himself as the unselfish playmaker that he is. Durant’s goal is clear just by looking at his game on the floor, where on each possession he simply leads the Thunder in trying to make the right play to get the best possible shot.

“I think Kevin continues to make a concerted effort to be a leader by example in terms of playing the game the right way and not being overly concerned with how many points he scores each night, but really just making the right plays,” Fisher said.

“I thought he did a fantastic job of that tonight, as he’s done all season,” Fisher continued. “As he continues to improve in those areas, it becomes contagious for the rest of our team. Our best player is willing to sacrifice, moving the ball that way. That’s when we’ll be at our best.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder led 45-41 with 4:36 remaining in the second quarter, but used a 21-4 run to end the first half and start the second half to break the game open for good. It started once the Thunder figured out the Hornets’ zone, as Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin knocked down consecutive three-pointers. Russell Westbrook hit two free throws before Durant hit another three. Durant made two free throws then after a Perkins block he found Serge Ibaka for a monster slam dunk. Ibaka scored on another layup to end the half as the Thunder took a 62-45 lead into the break. Out of halftime, Sefolosha made a driving layup and Durant hit two free throws to give the Thunder a 66-45 lead that would never again dip below 19.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Quick pass fake by Ibaka to Westbrook in the corner, then he calmly puts up his own jumper. Wonderful back-door cut along the baseline by Ibaka and great vision from Durant to find him on an alley-oop. Great awareness by Sefolosha to dive in and knock the ball away on an in-bounds pass to create a steal. Fisher slaps the ball away in the lane to help start a runout for Martin. Ibaka hustles and dives on the floor to draw a jump ball. Perkins sets up Durant with a great pick off the ball to free him up for a three.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Westbrook harasses the ball handler for an entire possession on defense. Incredible in-bounds play design to free up Durant to beat the shot clock. Perkins and Sefolosha communicate and switch throughout a possession to force a 24-second violation. Sefolosha dives on the floor to save a possession then Durant finds Westbrook for a jam. Beautiful ball movement by Martin and Collison to great space for Ibaka for a layup. Pretty passing from Collison to Jones out of a pick-and-roll pocket pass from Fisher.



“I’m happy with the win. I’m happy with the way we competed defensively. We played defense for 48 minutes. We passed the ball for 48 minutes.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

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