3 Steals for Kevin Durant, who had 26 points and nine rebounds

3 Players who scored 20-or-more points for the Thunder on the night

8-for-10 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who also had six rebounds and three blocks

11 Minutes for Perry Jones, who scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds

12 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, including 11 on the defensive end

38-6Scoring advantage for the Thunder’s bench over the Magic’s bench

52-33 Rebounding advantage in the Thunder’s favor

55.3 Shooting percentage for the Thunder tonight
March 15th, 2013

Over the years, this Thunder squad has learned the value of a win in the NBA.

When the organization first moved to Oklahoma City, wins were difficult to come by, and even five years later Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team remembers the feeling of getting each one. As a result, no win is taken for granted and no effort goes unevaluated. Tonight the Thunder was glad to come away with a 117-104 victory over the Orlando Magic thanks to staving off a late charge with timely plays on the defensive and offensive ends. With the win, the Thunder clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season.

“I like the way we ended the game,” Brooks said. “There’s no question, we did a good job of executing, we did a good job of getting stops, we did a good job of rebounding and protecting the basket. We scored. That’s what we expect to do.”

The Thunder closed out the game on an 11-2 run over the final 3:19, but it was the team’s play in the first half that set the tone in this one. By scoring a season-best 73 points in the first half, the Thunder gave itself as large as a 27-point lead before the scrappy Magic club clawed its way back in during the third quarter. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha combined for the final 11 points in the game-ending run, but it was a balanced scoring attack in the first half that got everyone involved.

“Guys weren’t worried about shooting the ball,” Durant said. “We were worrying about passing and finding the open shot.”

With 14 assists and all ten players in the scoring column at the end of the first half, the Thunder did a great job of executing and finding the open man by simply making the correct basketball play. While Brooks got his expected contributions from Kevin Martin, Nick Collison, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher, there was another reason why the Thunder bench outscored the Magic’s 38-6. Rookie Perry Jones played 11 aggressive, active minutes in which he chipped in eight points and grabbed five rebounds, which gave the Thunder a big boost.

“He works to get better every day,” Brooks said. “I’m really pleased with him, there’s just not a lot of minutes right now. He has a very bright future with us. He did what we expect him to do. He can get above the rim rebounds, he can make a shot and he can make a basket. He did a good job. His defense was solid.”

Throughout the season Jones has stuck close by to Durant as a mentor and noted tonight that listening to players like Fisher and Jackson on the court helped him be in the right position. In addition, Jones’ valuable playing time with the Tulsa 66ers gave Brooks and his staff the confidence to insert Jones into critical stages of the contest tonight, knowing he was game ready and able to make an impact. Both on the floor and off of it, the Thunder has a great support system, which helped Jones be ever-ready for his opportunity tonight.

“I felt comfortable thanks to the vets,” Jones said. “They’ve been talking to me and getting me ready…. All I’ve got to do is go out there and be aggressive and rebound. That’s what coach is looking for in my execution.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder broke this one open early with a 16-5 run to close out the first quarter. Leading 21-19 with 4:51 left in the first quarter, Russell Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper, then he fed Thabo Sefolosha for a transition layup before scoring again on a layup, plus a foul shot. Kevin Durant knocked down a step-back jumper, Kevin Martin added three free throws and Perry Jones and Derek Fisher both hit buckets to give the Thunder a 37-24 advantage with 32 seconds remaining in the quarter. During the stretch, the Thunder forced the Magic into six missed shots and a turnover.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perfect bounce pass by Perkins to Westbrook on a backdoor cut to get a layup. Perkins bodies up his man and forces him into an off-balance pass that Durant steals. Sefolosha with a nice close-out to force a traveling violation. Laser-beam pass from Westbrook to Perkins on a back-door cut for a slam dunk. Jones tips a loose defensive rebound to a teammate to maintain possession. Jones stays active on the glass to clean up a missed shot.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Nice communication by Durant and Westbrook as all Durant had to do was make a noise and Russ turned his head around on the fast break waiting for an outlet pass. Incredible triangle passing from Westbrook to Perkins to Ibaka, resulting in an easy bucket under the rim. Strong box out by Ibaka to snare a defensive rebound. Perkins tips a defensive rebound to Durant which leads to a fast break. Great box out by Martin on a much bigger opponent to get a defensive board.

“We made plays. We passed the ball. We made some shots in the fourth. It was a disappointing effort in the third, but I liked the way we finished.” – Kevin Durant