3 Steals by Nick Collison on the night as he also had six points, six rebounds and five assists

6 Number of players who scored in double figures tonight for the Thunder

9 Assists for Russell Westbrook to go with 19 points and seven rebounds

9 Points allowed by the Thunder in the second quarter, the fewest opponent points in a quarter in Oklahoma City history

10 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, who scored 15 of his 23 points in the third quarter

35.0 Shooting percentage allowed by the Thunder on the night, including 12.5 percent in the second quarter

48-35 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the night

53.6 Shooting percentage for the Thunder, including 43.8 percent from three and 29-for-33 from the free throw line

March 13th, 2013

Only one thing mattered for the Thunder tonight – getting stops.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club always focuses on the defensive end, but when it walked away from its 110-87 victory over the Utah Jazz at Chesapeake Energy Arena, it could be sure it took care of business. While the offense didn’t completely click throughout the night, particularly in the first half, the Thunder fell back on what it can always rely on, which is forcing missed shots and grabbing defensive boards. The game turned when the Thunder went on a 21-4 run in the second quarter, when it held the Jazz to 3-for-24 shooting.

“Our defense was outstanding that first half,” Brooks said. “Holding a very good offensive team to a low field goal percentage and nine points in the second quarter. I thought that was the game right there. The way we came on in the first and second quarter playing good defense and scoring off of that.”

Those nine points the Thunder allowed in the second quarter were the fewest for an opponent in Oklahoma City history. Although big man Kendrick Perkins said he didn’t realize it was that few until the team headed into halftime, the team felt great about sticking to its defensive habits and principles.

Perhaps the single most important factor in the game was the way the Thunder took control of the area within five feet of the basket. On the night the Thunder held the Jazz, who normally shoots 60 percent inside five feet, to only 32 points in the paint. In addition, the Thunder out-rebounded the Jazz 48-35.

“I thought we did a great job of protecting the paint,” Perkins said. “I thought all of the guys were helping each other, I thought Russell (Westbrook) and Kevin (Durant) were very active today. They kind of set the tone with shot blocking. I thought it was a great game.”

In typical fashion, the credit for the win ping-ponged around the locker room after the game. Perkins nodded towards the back-to-back blocks from Thunder leading scorers Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to start the game. While those two combined for 44 points on 13-for-24 shooting on the night, they also ducked in to help Thunder bigs like Perkins and Serge Ibaka deal with the Utah duo of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Those two finished with only 15 points and 14 rebounds.

“We were physical with them,” Durant said. “It was a physical game between both teams. Kendrick [Perkins] and Serge [Ibaka] did a great job. We forced them out and I can count on one hand how many times they got easy points in the paint. That is where our defense is. We have to continue to rely on us being a sound defensive team, closing up the paint and getting out to the shooters.”

The Jazz prides itself on getting layups and easy short jumpers due to their prowess in the paint, where they also have depth. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are two massive bodies who take up space in the lane, but also have the touch to put points on the board. Fortunately for the Thunder, Nick Collison mans the middle in the second unit, and the longest tenured member of the crew was at his finest tonight. Along with Hasheem Thabeet and the entire second unit, which set the tone defensively early in that second quarter, Collison helped hold Kanter and Favors to 18 points and eight rebounds combined.

“You can talk about Nick every game,” Brooks said. “He just makes winning basketball plays. He sets screens, he dives on the floor, he holds up screeners, he’s just a winner. He plays winning basketball no matter what the score is, no matter who he’s playing against, no matter who he’s playing with. He just goes out there and competes.”

Collison finished with six points, six rebounds and five assists, but his biggest plays of the game were the two times he saved the ball from going out of bounds and the amazing tipped rebound he made while lying flat on his back after being knocked over. The Thunder has grown accustomed to seeing their stalwart pay attention to all the details and make the hustle plays, but tonight was a firm reminder of how important those things can be.

“We know when Nick is going to bring it and players play off of him and do the little small things for us,” Durant said. “Tonight was no different. It was nothing new. We expect that from him. We get a little spoiled when Nick is playing but we appreciate everything he does for us. We’ve got to just continue to keep encouraging him. When he’s open shooting the ball it gives him confidence every game.”

Turning Point:
With a big flurry in the second quarter, the Thunder turned a five-point game into a blowout. The Thunder led 29-24 with 10:34 remaining in the second quarter when it embarked on a 21-4 run the closeout the half that put the game out of reach for good. It started with back-to-back three-point jumpers by Derek Fisher, then back-to-back buckets by Kevin Martin – one a runner and the other a nifty up-and-under layup. Russell Westbrook then scored on a drive before the Thunder got a three-pointer by Kevin Durant then two free throws each from Serge Ibaka and Westbrook to close out the run. During the stretch the Jazz missed 20 shots and turned the ball over six times.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Westbrook helps over on defense to double-team the post and swats a shot by Paul Millsap. Durant flies over in help-side defense to protect the rim. Westbrook makes a perfect play to turn defense into offense by slapping the ball away from behind then running out on the fast break. Pretty up and under move by Martin at the rim in transition to fake out his defender. Westbrook scratches and claws for a defensive rebound, drawing a foul on the Jazz. Great team defense for by the Thunder to force a shot-clock violation.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Sefolosha skies up while being hit and still manages to tip in a loose rebound. Sefolosha uses his length to frustrate his matchup then creates a steal. Collison hustles to make an amazing save to Martin to keep possession, then he feeds Martin again with a bounce pass on a wonderful backdoor cut for a layup. Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball then saves it to Thabeet to retain possession. Collison, on his back grabs a rebound and tips it to a teammate. Jackson uses his length stay active and get in the passing lanes, tipping a steal to himself and taking it the distance. Thabeet hustles and slaps a loose ball off a Jazz player.

“We did a good job of making plays and executing. We had a lot of assists on our baskets but our defense really won the game tonight.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks