2 The number of turnovers for the Thunder on the night, tying an NBA record for fewest turnovers in a game

5 Assists for Kevin Martin, who was one of six Thunder players to score in double figures

22 Points for the Thunder off of 16 Lakers turnovers. The Thunder racked up 10 steals on the night

22-6 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night, where it shot 9-for-13

37 Points for Russell Westbrook to go along with 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals

39-20 Advantage in bench points for the Thunder, which got 20 combined points from Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson

52-22 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint over the Lakers. The Thunder held Los Angeles to just 11-for-29 shooting in the paint

71 Points for the Thunder in the first half, the most points it has scored in the first half this season

March 5th, 2013

Pace, tempo and rhythm are all important factors and when implemented properly to start the game, it sets the tone.

On Tuesday night the Thunder did that with a staunch defensive effort that held the Los Angeles Lakers to only four points through the first five and a half minutes of play. That effort carried over through the rest of the evening as the Thunder forced turnovers, got out into transition and scored in the paint, building an 18-point lead. When the Lakers drew back in within five points mid-way through the fourth quarter, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club again stepped up the defensive effort, going on a 12-0 run to end the game, notching a 122-105 victory.

“We were running and we were defending,” Brooks said. “I think that the defense was the key. We held them to 40% and we do that we’re going to get opportunities on the break which we’ve been pretty efficient scoring and converting our opportunities in transition.”

Despite an effort where the Thunder dominated in points in the paint (52-22), fast break points (22-6) and bench points (39-20), the Lakers racked up 40 free throw attempts and managed to make this one close. Sensing an oncoming run, the Thunder on multiple occasions locked in on defense and executed on offense to push the lead back out. During the final six minutes, the Thunder forced the Lakers to miss ten straight shots in addition to one turnover, a Russell Westbrook steal and two-handed slam which doubled as the game-ending exclamation point.

“(We were) just playing team defense,” Westbrook said. “I think we did a good job of cutting off the isolations, scrambling and just playing Thunder defense.”

While the Thunder was busy scoring 22 points off 16 Lakers turnovers, and racking up ten steals in the process, it was having its way with the Lakers on the other end of the floor. Brooks’ squad, led by Westbrook’s magnificent 37 points, ten rebounds and five assists, turned the ball over only twice throughout the night, tying an NBA record for fewest turnovers in a game. Great ball movement, calculated drives to the paint and proper floor balance were all integral parts of how the Thunder was able to be so protective of the ball.

“There’s no question that we want to have good spacing, we want to execute, we want to set good screens,” Brooks said. “It was just one of those games that we don’t turn the ball over… It’s a great game offensively for us.”

Kevin Durant and Westbrook did the heavy lifting offensively, as the duo combined for 63 points, 19 rebounds, ten assists, five steals and three blocks, but without the other contributors, the Thunder might not have been victorious. Seemingly every time the Lakers made a run, a different Thunder player stepped up and made a big play.

Whether it was Hasheem Thabeet snagging an extra offensive possession for the Thunder by grabbing a rebound, Derek Fisher knocking down shots from the outside or Reggie Jackson slicing through the lane and powerfully finishing at the rim, the Thunder’s complementary pieces made winning basketball plays.

“I think our bench was really good tonight,” Durant said. “Fish came in and made some good shots, Reggie was great on the pick and roll, Hasheem had a really great game, so our bench was really good and gave us the lift we needed when the first group struggled a little bit. It was a good win.”

One of the reasons the Thunder’s bench players were able to step right in and make an impact to balance out the Thunder’s starters was because of that tone the first group set to start the game. With active hands, the Thunder made extra efforts to start the game and tried to play a high-tempo style. That worked to the team’s advantage, and when it came to winning time, the Thunder relied on how it had played all night, and for that matter, all season.

“We did a good job of getting our hands on balls, rebounding the ball when we needed to, and getting out on break,” Westbrook said. “We’re coming in with the right mindset. It’s getting around that time of year when you need to focus in and be sharp, and be confident in what you’re doing as a team.”

Turning Point:
The Lakers cut what was once an 18-point Thunder lead to only five points at 110-105 with 6:14 remaining in the game, but behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin, the Thunder finished the game on a 12-0 run. It started when Westbrook made one of three free throws, then Martin made the extra pass to Ibaka in the corner for a three. Durant hit two free throws then Ibaka made a put-back before Westbrook sent an exclamation point two-handed dunk down. By the time Reggie Jackson made a driving layup, the Thunder reached its final margin of 122-105. During that final stretch, the Thunder’s defense stepped up big, forcing ten straight missed shots and forcing a turnover.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Incredible hustle by Westbrook to track down a Laker player and make a steal from behind. Great ball denial up top by Sefolosha and Ibaka forces a Lakers turnover. Perkins hustles on the offensive glass to track down a miss and save a possession. Nice job of stunting in the open court by Durant to force a Lakers travel. Beautiful pump fake by Westbrook to draw his man in the air and dish it off to Collison to draw a foul. Collison steps up and makes a great play to draw a charge.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Ibaka stays tough in the paint and contests at the rim before grabbing a defensive rebound. Sefolosha gets back in transition defense and makes a spectacular steal and save. Incredible patience in the lane by Westbrook to see Sefolosha in the corer for three. Fisher comes across the lane and slaps the ball away from Howard for a steal. Jackson shakes and bakes his defender and slams it home. Great work by Perkins down low to tip a defensive board to Ibaka.

“A lot of guys stepped up. I thought Brewer’s minutes were good. Hash’s (Thabeet) were good. Fish (Fisher) made big shots, Reggie (Jackson) was really good finishing around the basket and he got the nice dunk. Russell, Kevin—you can just go down the list. The guys made big plays defensively.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks