9 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant combined
9-for-17 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, who shot 58 percent from the field
11-for-15 Combined shooting numbers for Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson, who totaled 28 points
13-for-15 Free throw shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who finished with 27 points and seven assists
23 Assists for the Thunder, including eight by Russell Westbrook
25-5 Advantage in fast break points for the Thunder, which shot 9-for-11 in transition
37 Points for Russell Westbrook in addition to 11 rebounds and only one turnover
April 7th, 2013
Despite having already eclipsed the team’s highest season win total since moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder still uses every game as an opportunity to learn and get better.
On Sunday afternoon, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club fell to the New York Knicks 125-120 in a game that featured high shooting percentages and incredible marksmanship from behind the three-point arc. The Thunder shot 57.7 percent from the field and was 9-for-17 from the three-point line. The Knicks got hot from deep too, knocking down 15-of-34 shots from long range, including two in the final two minutes, to keep the Thunder at bay.
“We had some very good offensive moments and good passing moments,” Brooks said. “Assists were high and turnovers were down. But the defense; it always goes back to the defense with our team.”
The Thunder racked up 23 assists, including a combined 15 from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, while only giving it away 13 times. The Knicks managed to only turn it over six times on the afternoon, and also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds that turned into 23 second chance points. According to Brooks, those extra opportunities were the difference in the game, as the Knicks attempted 15 more field goals than the Thunder.
On the other end of the floor, however, the Thunder kept the scoreboard moving, and during multiple stretches were able to challenge New York and re-take the lead. There were 12 lead changes in this one, and much of that was thanks to the relentlessness, and brilliance, of Westbrook. Unfortunately, as Westbrook explained, it wasn’t quite enough.
“Just trying to stay in attack mode, keep them on their heels and make them guard us,” Westbrook said. “I think it’s important for us as a team, being able to get loose balls. They got some key rebounds at the end of the game that we weren’t able to get.”
The Thunder’s All-Star point guard kept his foot on the gas en route to 37 points on 15-for-27 shooting, to go along with a team-high 11 rebounds and eight assists. He only turned the ball over once, and it was his ability to get the Thunder in transition, where it outscored the Knicks 25-5, that allowed the Thunder to stay close all afternoon. Off of pick-and-rolls or in the open floor, Westbrook’s speed, quickness and tempo made New York’s defenders uncomfortable.
“He was aggressive and attacking the basket,” Brooks said. “He is a handful. He gets around his man and all he has to do is beat the big’s feet. I’ll take Russell’s feet against any big’s feet in this league.”
Ultimately, regardless of how the Thunder plays on the offensive end, its largest focus is how it plays on defense. Over the years with defensive minded players like Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder has set its defensive standards internally, and teammates and coaches alike challenge the unit to play to that level every night. The energy and intensity was there in Chesapeake Energy Arena, but the Thunder simply was unable to produce the result it desired on the scoreboard.
“Everybody was playing hard,” Sefolosha said. “I think everybody’s spirit is at the right place. It’s just a matter of being a little bit more physical… We take it one game at a time. We hate to lose. We did tonight, and I’m sure everybody is eager to bounce back.”
The Thunder had battled back from a 12-point deficit to take a 111-110 lead with 4:00 remaining on a Russell Westbrook layup, but the Knicks went on an 11-2 run over the next three minutes to take control of this one. Starting with a Tyson Chandler layup and a Carmelo Anthony tip-in, the Knicks took a 114-11 lead. After Westbrook cut into that margin with a mid-range jumper, the Knicks got back-to-back deep, contested shots from JR Smith. A 23-foot fadeaway was followed up by a 28-foot heave that gave the Knicks a 120-113 lead with 56.8 seconds remaining. After a Kevin Durant miss, Carmelo Anthony knocked down a free throw to complete the burst.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perfect defensive rotation by Sefolosha to get into Chandler on a drive. Solid team defense and rotations thwarts two Knicks efforts. Wonderful ball movement on the offensive end nets the Thunder back-to-back corner three pointers. Westbrook sticks with the play, hustling to make a steal from behind. Pretty Euro-step move in the lane by Jackson to hit a floater. Good identification of the double team by Durant to kick back out to Jackson for three. Nice pump fake by Martin after a Collison offensive board to free himself up.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Quick hands and good defense on the pick and roll as Sefolosha forced a turnover and Westbrook finished it. Westbrook jumps the passing lane and then fires a one-handed bounce pass to Durant for a fast break layup. Well-time drive-and-dish by Durant to Sefolosha for a three-pointer. Great hesitation in the lane by Westbrook to get defenders in the air, then he hits Perkins for a floater. Incredible ball movement from Durant to Sefolosha to Perkins results in two points.
“Defensively we’ve had a good number of games throughout this last stretch, and we just have to learn from this and move on as quickly as we can. And we will.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks