1 The seed the Thunder will have in the Western Conference, giving the Thunder home court advantage against all other Western Conference teams

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

8 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also had 21 points, five rebounds and three steals

10 Points for Daniel Orton one shy of tying a career-high, in addition to seven offensive rebounds and three steals

13 Rebounds for Ronnie Brewer, a career-high, including five on the offensive end

19-8 The Thunder’s advantage in points off turnovers, as it forced Sacramento into 15 giveaways

25-16 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points, where it shot 11-for-14

29 Points for Kevin Durant, who shot 10-for-16, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds

60 Wins for the Thunder, the first time the team reached that plateau in Oklahoma City

62-46 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, where it shot 31-for-52

April 15th, 2013

The Thunder takes its opponent’s best shot every single night. Regardless of what the challenge, it’s all about how the Thunder responds to it.

On Monday night the Thunder was pushed by the Sacramento Kings even after building a 24-point advantage in the third quarter, but managed to keep them at bay to grab a 104-95 victory. Behind a defensive effort that made ten steals and scored 19 points off 15 Sacramento turnovers, the Thunder turned stops into points, then shared the ball to the tune of 23 assists to find success. Five players scored in double figures on the night, including Reggie Jackson, who had 10 points.

“Just getting some defensive stops,” Jackson said when asked about the keys to victory. “That’s how we try to start the game. Who knows how the playoffs are going to go, every possession matters. We just got some key stops…Our guys did a good job pushing the lead again and just letting us finish.”

The Thunder used a 16-6 burst in the second quarter, then a powerful third quarter to break open the game, eventually leading 75-51 with 4:22 remaining in the third quarter. Sacramento battled back, eventually cutting the lead to 10 with just under five minutes remaining. A few timely buckets and defensive stops helped the Thunder move the scoreboard and prevent the Kings from completing the run. Kevin Durant, who finished with 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Russell Westbrook, who had 21 points, eight assists and three steals, were both critical to closing out the game strong.

“We were just trying to get some deflections and use our length a little bit to get out and score,” Durant said. “I think we did a good job of finishing.”

Not only did the Thunder’s two All-Stars come through tonight, but so did some of the reserves. With Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher resting tonight, the Thunder turned to Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton, Ronnie Brewer and Jeremy Lamb to pick up the slack. Head Coach Scott Brooks is confident in every man on the roster, and it showed tonight as Brewer racked up a career-high 13 rebounds, Orton scored 10 points and Lamb had six straight points late in the fourth quarter when the Thunder needed buckets.

“It’s good to see Daniel Orton play well,” Durant said. “Jeremy Lamb, Hash (Hasheem Thabeet), Ronnie Brewer; it was good to get those guys in there, because down the line you’re going to need all those guys to win the series or win the game. It was good for our team.”

It was full team effort for the Thunder, just as it has been this entire season. Over the past five years the Thunder has turned itself from a lottery team to a contender, and after tonight can say it will be the number one seed in the Western Conference Playoffs and reached the 60-win plateau, both for the first time in Oklahoma City. The two accomplishments are a testament to the dedication each player, coach and staff member throughout the entire organization has put in to impact success.

“We’ve come a long ways through the hard work our entire organization has put in,” Brooks said. “It’s always about the team first, and we have many members of the team that are so important. It’s not just about the players, but it’s our staff and everyone in our building. The business and training site are committed to getting there every day, and it’s paid off. Sixty wins is a quite an accomplishment and not many teams get that.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder led 25-21 with 11:39 remaining in the second quarter when it jumped out to a 16-6 run that changed the game. It started with a Reggie Jackson driving layup and Kevin Durant tipping home his own miss. After a Durant jumper and two Jackson free throws, Jackson scored on another driving layup and then hit Durant for back-to-back three-pointers. By the time the run was over, the Thunder held a 41-27 lead with 7:11 remaining in the half. During the stretch, Sacramento missed four shots and turned the ball over twice. The Kings never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Westbrook hustles, dives on the floor for a loose ball then pitches it ahead to Sefolosha for a dunk. Ibaka comes over in helpside defense to swat away a dunk attempt at the rim. Nice box out by Thabeet on DeMarcus Cousins to prevent an offensive board then good hustle to tip out an offensive rebound. Solid defensive rotations by the Thunder to close out on shooters and force difficult misses. Thabeet sticks with the play and is able to slap a defensive rebound to a teammate. Sefolosha anticipates a play from the weakside and makes a block.

Plays the box score won't show:
One-handed lefty pass in transition from Westbrook to Ibaka brings down the house. Ibaka shakes and bakes in the paint, showing off some post moves he’s worked hard on. Westbrook turns the corner then uses his quickness and vision to fire a pass to Orton for a dunk. Orton hustles back in transition defense to deflect a pitch-ahead pass. Jackson makes a play to stop a transition opportunity, then slams home a thunderous dunk. Collison tips an offensive board out to give the Thunder another opportunity. Westbrook closes out on three different players on the same possession.

“Fun and enthusiasm is a big part of what we do and the work that we put in. I like the fact that it’s a long season of 82 games, and you’re going to have some up and you’re going to have some downs. But, you have to be able to stay focused and committed to each other every night.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks