Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Mavericks

MAVERICKS 91

THUNDER 95
9 Different players who both saw action and scored for the Thunder tonight

10 Number of lead changes in a contest that also featured 13 ties

14 Offensive rebounds by the Thunder on the night, leading to 15 second chance points

14 Fourth quarter points by James Harden on 3-for-3 shooting from the field and 7-for-7 shooting from the free throw line

14 Total rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, a season-high, which included five offensive boards

16-6 Fast break points advantage for the Thunder

29-for-33 The Thunder's shooting numbers from the free throw line, where they outscored the Mavericks 29-to-10

45-36 The rebounding advantage for the Thunder tonight, thanks to five different players having six or more rebounds

The Thunder will continues its home stand on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then goes on to host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night and the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
Game pressure is a combination of intense time and score situations, and tonight in the ever-building rivalry between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks, the Thunder showed it is continuing to learn how to perform in those scenarios. The Thunder trailed 91-87 with 2:45 remaining in the game, but thanks to high levels of execution and supreme focus on the defensive end, it came away with a 95-91 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The 8-0 run to end the game sealed the deal, but Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks was most impressed with his team's resiliency. The Thunder shot only 38.2 percent from the field tonight, but gave itself a chance to win at the end thanks to hard-nosed defense and the will to never quit.

"You're going to have nights where you can't shoot the ball straight," Brooks said. "But you have to be able to stay in the game with your opponent by defending every shot and contesting every pass, and tonight we did that in the second half... We played hard. That's one of the things that I'm proud of, our effort every night."

Last week after the Thunder's come-from-behind victory over the Orlando Magic, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said that he thought the Thunder could use another road overtime game to help the team develop it's crunch time execution. Tonight the Thunder was able to learn a slightly different lesson, that Perkins also believed is important to the development of the squad. The Thunder and Mavericks squared off in the Western Conference Finals last season, and to Perkins, tonight's game felt like one with playoff tempo.

"I think actually tonight we got a taste of how to (play) when the game slows down," Perkins said. "I think they probably played zone the whole game tonight. We actually were forced to make extra pass after extra pass, so I think it was good for us mentally. We fought through it, we didn't play our best game offensively, but we just grinding and just kept covering for each other. We did things to get the win."

One of those things that the Thunder did in order to get the win was rebound. Thanks to a season-high 14 rebounds by Perkins and five different players racking up six-or-more rebounds, the Thunder dominated the glass to the tune of 45-36. That has been a point of emphasis for the Thunder all season, in addition to preventing offensive rebounds. Tonight the Mavericks were able to grab nine, but the Thunder snagged 14 offensive boards of their own, including an acrobatic, diving one by Russell Westbrook with 1:03 remaining. Westbrook scrambled to the ground and somehow reached up above his head to grab the loose ball while laying on his back and smartly called a timeout. On the ensuing possession, Serge Ibaka was fouled and knocked down both free throws, giving the Thunder the lead for good.

"We're getting better there," forward Nick Collison said when asked about the team's rebounding. "We struggled for a big part of the season rebounding the ball. I think it's becoming more of a habit now for us to box out and then pursue the ball. We're getting better... We need to do a better job of finding the seams and playing with the pass instead of the dribble, but we were able to get enough, and that's why the defense was so big."

After the Thunder took that 92-91 lead on Ibaka's free throws with 46.6 seconds remaining, the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena and Coach Brooks' players all racheted up the intensity another notch. While Perkins hopes to see that kind of dedication and focus on defense for 48 minutes, the Thudner's final two possessions were an incredible display of heady, team-oriented defense in which Perkins starred. James Harden pressured Jason Terry twice, then switched with Perkins, who both times in the Mavericks' last two crucial possessions forced Terry into a missed fall-away jump shot. The Thunder crowd, who hadn't seen a Thunder home game since February 23 treated the first of five straight home games with the utmost importance, giving players like Kevin Durant a boost in the final moments of the victory.

"I think it did help us out that we were in our building those last two minutes to give us an extra push," Durant said. "Our defense kind of helped us on the offensive end. Serge was great, Perk was great, we got into the ball and made them shoot tough shots."

TURNING POINT:
There were two different turning points in this one, as the Thunder both had to swing the momentum of the game back to even, then pull away for a come-from behind victory. The first turning point was just after halftime, when the Thunder went on a 7-0 run to open the second half to tie the game. It went from 52-45 Mavericks lead to a 52-52 tie with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter thanks to two free throws from Kevin Durant, a 3-pointer from Daequan Cook off a Durant pass and then a Russell Westbrook pull-up jumper. The Mavericks never led by more than four for the rest of the game.

The second turning point occurred when the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena reached a fever pitch and the Thunder locked down defensively at the end of the game. It was 91-87 Mavericks with 2:46 remaining in the game when Westbrook responded with a 3-pointer off a James Harden dish. The Mavericks didn't score for the rest of the contest thanks to incredible, active defense by Kendrick Perkins, Harden, Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka. The Thunder forced two turnovers, including a shot-clock violation, and two missed shots in the final 1:42 of the game, leading them to a 95-91 victory and ending the game on an 8-0 run.

"Perk was really good," Brooks said. "Defensively, he was guarding the bigs, the perimeter guys and he had 14 rebounds. He had two plays that really stand out to me and they never show up in the box score. He switched out on (Jason) Terry twice in the last two possessions of the game. He made him miss both shots, and if Terry would have made it, it just would have been a lucky shot. Perkins is a competitor. He competes, and I like the way he has played all year. His reboudns and just his activity were really good tonight."

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Toughness on the defensive end by Kendrick Perkins to come away wih the ball off a defensive rebound... Nice pass from the top of the key from Kevin Durant to Daequan Cook for a 3-pointer on the first offensive possession, followed by a strong box out by Perkins to draw an offensive foul... Good hustle on the defensive end by Durant to deflect an entry pass... Russell Westbrook fronts a pass into the post and forces a Dallas turnover... Cook flies in on an offensive rebound and passes it out to Serge Ibaka for a midrange jumper... Beautiful one-handed pass from Westbrook to Perkins for a slam dunk... Solid back screen by Serge ibaka to free up Durant on the baseline... Pretty interior pass from Perkins to Ibaka for a layup after an offensive rebound, then Ibaka sends a Lamar Odom shot into the tenth row... Great determination by Westbrook to knock the ball away from the Mavericks on the baseline... Nice drive and dish from Westbrook to Ivey for a 3-pointer on the wing... Great instincts from Nick Collison to grab a loose ball and flip it to James Harden who finished in transition on the other end... Perfect dribble to split a screen by Harden... Great hands by Reggie Jackson to pick up a loose ball, recognize the shot clock was winding down, then finish at the rim... Tough box out by Collison to out-hustle Dirk Nowitzki for a defensive rebound... Heads up transition pass from Jackson to Durant for a dunk off a defensive board... Well-executed post move from Perkins to spin baseline for a jumper... Perfect pick by Collison to free up Jackson for a 3-pointer... Crisp rotations on defense to play tough for 18 seconds and get a loose defensive rebound... Great ball movement by the Thunder as Durant found Westbrook for a corner 3-pointer... Strong offensive put-back for a dunk by Ibaka off a Durant miss... Durant plays physical defense on Nowitzki as the team forces a 24-second violation.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice work by Ibaka to deflect an entry pass as Cook and Durant got the ball up court to draw a foul... Strong box out and leap to grab a defensive board by Ibaka... Perkins gets his 10th rebound, then Durant finds Cook in the corner for a 3-pointer... Westbrook and Perkins team up to play great defense on the pick-and-roll and force a turnover... A show of length by Ibaka to tip out a rebound, then good hustle by Perkins to track it down... Great box out by Durant, then he draws a foul on the other end... Nice hustle by Cook on the offensive boards to strip the ball then clean it up off a Perkins miss... Durant cuts to the rim off a back screen and a nice dish from Westbrook to get the basket and draw the foul... Nice job of impacting the shot by Durant, then Perkins ties his season-high with his 13th rebound... Tough, rotating team defense to force a turnover... Collison goes up high on the glass and tips one in... Really crisp basketball by the Thunder on both ends, defending and executing at a high level... Great passing by Westbrook to find Collison, then hustle by Westbrook and Collison to tip and corall two offensive boards... Textbook execution of a 3-on-1 fast break by Westbrook, Harden and Durant, which resulted in a 3-point play...Nice ball movement by the Thunder to swing it around the perimeter, then Harden is able to draw a foul in the lane... Royal Ivey giving Jackson a teaching point while on the floor... Harden gets two goaltend calls in a row by taking it to the rim, then knocks down a 3-pointer on the next possession... Solid defensive possession from Collison and Harden, who harrassed Nowitzki and Jason Terry for 24 seconds... Beautiful triangle passing from Westbrook to Harden to Durant for a 3-pointer... Great defensive presence by Ibaka to leap and grab a board... Westbrook answers with a much needed 3-pointer and Durant boxes out for a tough defensive board... Perkins and Ibaka rotate over and force a late turnover... Incredible display of athleticism by Westbrook to grab an offensive rebound, fall down, and reach back to grab the ball and call timeout and save possession... Durant drives and dishes to Ibaka to draw a foul and knock down both free throws, then the Thunder plays incredible, intense defense to force a 24-second violation... Still trying to figure out how Harden snuck a pass to Durant down the sideline... Incredible defense by Perkins on a switch onto Terry, helping the Thunder get the ball and go to the free throw line, where Westbrook ices the game.