Regular Season Recap - Thunder vs. Jazz
5 Players who scored in double figures for the Thunder, keeping the team undefeated when it hits that mark
5 Assists for Kendrick Perkins on the night, in addition to 12 points and six rebounds, including five on the offensive end
7 ABlocked shots for Serge Ibaka, tying a season-high
7 Steals by Russell Westbrook, one shy of a career-high
13 Rebounds for Russell Westbrook, two shy of his career-high
13 Wins for the Thunder this month, the most in Thunder history in the month of November
25 Points off turnovers for the Thunder, who forced Utah in 19 giveaways on the night
52-38 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder, who held the Jazz to 19-for-45 shooting inside the paint.
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
The word relentless doesn’t do justice to the Thunder’s defensive effort and intensity on Friday night.
In the first game of a home-road back-to-back, the Thunder played with an extreme amount of energy and passion in its 106-94 victory over the Utah Jazz at Chesapeake Energy Arena. It started with a physical defensive effort that saw the Thunder make 11 steals and block 14 shots while forcing the Jazz into 19 turnovers. The Thunder was able to capitalize and score 25 points off of those giveaways, and Head Coach Scott Brooks was proud of his opportunistic bunch.
“We have some of the quickest players in the league and that is how we have to play – get deflections, get steals but get defensive stops,” Brooks said. “That is what we talk about. That’s work on every day and it’s good to see the guys. That is what we want. We want to see them reward themselves with good work on the defensive end and trying to get easy buckets on the offense.”
The defensive charge was made by Russell Westbrook, whose tenacity and ferocity at the head of the defense was palpable throughout the contest. The fifth-year point guard and team leader got into Jazz point guard Mo Williams throughout the night and dug down into the post to slap the ball away. In total, Westbrook made seven steals that helped lead to fast break points and secondary break opportunities. Behind him was the trio of Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, who combined for all 14 of the Thunder’s blocked shots.
“I thought Perk [Kendrick Perkins] and Russell [Westbrook] really set the tone both ends of the floor that first quarter and throughout the game,” Brooks said. “I thought their energy and enthusiasm for the game was outstanding.”
Westbrook often handles a large part of the scoring load each night, and that was no different as the Thunder guard was the second leading scorer in the game with 23. In addition he’s one of the top assist men in the league, and naturally he registered eight tonight. Where the fearless and attacking point guard truly makes his impact, however, is being able to fill the rest of the stat sheet. On a night when the Thunder needed all the rebounding help it could get, Westbrook reeled in 13 boards, two shy of his career-high, and also made seven steals, just one short of a career-best.
“He makes big plays,” Durant said. “It’s not always just making a pass or scoring. He makes big plays that change the game, and that was a huge play for us. Perk with an unselfish pass to throw to me for the dunk. So that’s what our team is all about, playing for each other and leaving it all on the floor.”
While Westbrook might be the front man in this defense, attacking the ball-handler and disrupting the flow, Perkins sets the tone and is the anchor. He accepted the challenge of facing the dynamic Al Jefferson as he does each night against the best opposition post player, and forced Jefferson into a 7-for-18 shooting night. A normally prolific paint points and rebounding team in the Jazz lost both battles tonight thanks to Perkins’ strategic defensive effort.
“I think Perk was as good as you could play against Al [Jefferson],” Brooks said. “Al is one of the best low post scorers in the game. He has every move. He has an amazing pump fake that you just don’t know how to not stay down. But we did a good job. Perk did a good job. And then he hit four big fourteen – nineteen foot jump shots, we call those tough twos.”
Not only was Perkins a force on the defensive end, he went 6-for-9 from the floor, posting a season-high 12 points in addition to handing out five assists. With efforts like those from Perkins, the Thunder continued its unbeaten streak when five-or-more players score in double figures this season, while also notching the team’s 13 win this month. That win total is the highest for November in Thunder history, but it is thanks to an ever-persistent dedication by the Thunder to play consistent basketball. While the team’s start has been a good one, leaders like Durant know that there is plenty of room for improvement.
“We know we need to take it a quarter at a time and a possession at a time,” Durant said. “We just need to be more consistent with our play and keep playing for each other.”
The Thunder led by a score of 88-83 with 7:41 remaining in the game and the Jazz was threatening. After Russell Westbrook made two free throws, he then made two steals in the span of eight seconds, the second leading to a Kevin Durant dunk plus a technical foul shot. Westbrook slapped the ball away from Al Jefferson when he was in the post, then tracked down Earl Watson from behind to poke the ball away, sending the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd into a frenzy. That five-point swing changed the game, and the Thunder’s lead never dipped below eight again.
“Russell [Westbrook] had probably the most inspired basketball play you could come up with as a team, the run back and couple of plays right in that sequence,” Brooks said.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perfect timing by Perkins and Durant on a backdoor cut and lob over the top. Westbrook harasses the ball-handler to knock the ball out of his hands and off of the Jazz player. Beautiful pass by Durant on a backdoor cut by Sefolosha who catches the ball and dishes to Perkins for a jumper. Westbrook absolutely hounding Mo Williams, forcing a turnover that leads to a run-out dunk. Martin knocks the ball out off of Alec Burks to force a turnover.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Beautiful triangle passing from Westbrook to Perkins to Ibaka for an easy layup. Picture-perfect bounce pass from Westbrook to Ibaka out of the pick-and-roll for a midrange jumper, then Westbrook hits Durant with a laser-beam pass for a dunk. Collison tips a rebound to himself then to Martin to regain possession. Thabeet does a nice job maintaining position on both ends of the floor to get rebounds. Westbrook makes a steal, then after the Thunder loses possession, Westbrook makes another steal.
“I thought our bigs had a tremendous game, fighting with those four big guys they got over there, who are really, really good. So, we just tried to help those guys out. Russell was really good about coming in there and getting rebounds and giving us energy, and our wings were just trying to follow their lead.” – Kevin Durant