6 Assists for Reggie Jackson, part of the Thunder’s 25 assist night

10 Rebounds for Kevin Durant to go with his 19 points, four assists and two steals

23 Points off 14 Dallas turnovers for the Thunder

24 Points for Russell Westbrook, in addition to seven assists, three rebounds and three steals

25-11 Fast break points advantage for the Thunder tonight, where it shot 9-for-10 from the floor

39-22 Scoring differential in the Thunder’s favor in the second quarter

43 Bench points for the Thunder on the night, including 17 by Kevin Martin

48-40 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, including a 28-16 advantage for the Thunder’s starters over Dallas’ starters

Feb. 4th, 2013

The Thunder had a hand in the face of every Dallas Mavericks jump shooter, and while early on some of those difficult contested two pointers fell for Dallas, eventually the Thunder’s defense wore them down.

In Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club’s 112-91 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night the Thunder stuck to its principles and played a process-based game as opposed to looking at the scoreboard. While it might have said 22-22 with a few minutes left in the first quarter, the Thunder knew it was playing the game the right way. That confidence on defense helped the Thunder outscore Dallas 39-12 over the following 12 minutes, propelling the team to victory.

“Our first unit started the game off passing the ball, sharing the ball,” Brooks said. “And then the defensive basketball was good. Our second unit came in and did the same thing. That’s what they do every day in practice, that’s what we do every shoot around and I like the fact that we did it.”

Jumping into the passing lanes, keeping hands wide and high and staying mentally engaged helped the Thunder make nine of its 11 steals in the first half while turning the Mavericks over 14 times in the game. Those 14 giveaways led directly to 23 Thunder points, and in turn helped get the team into the fast break. Led by Russell Westbrook and his three steals, the Thunder outscored the Mavericks 21-2 in fast break points in the first half, where it shot 9-for-10. Those chances came from aggressive, hounding defense led by the head of the Thunder’s defense, Westbrook.

“Just being aggressive,” Westbrook said. “I think we did a good job defensively just playing together and getting out on the break…Just getting stops. I think we forced a lot of turnovers which gave us opportunities for transition points.”

While it may seem contrarian, it was actually the fact that the Thunder played true to its normal defensive values and defined roles that helped the squad be so aggressive. By covering the pick-and-roll properly, bigs like Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison prevented Mavericks guards from getting into the paint. As a result, the Thunder’s guards were able to anticipate passes late in the shot clock for easy scoring opportunities.

“We were aggressive and got out in the passing lanes too,” Collison said. “We can do that when we’re really good fundamentally and when they’re back on their heels because we’re so good in our coverage.”

The balance between fundamental defense and opportunistic play was one that the Thunder found throughout the night, but particularly within the second unit. After a give-and-go- alley-oop from Westbrook to Kevin Martin, Hasheem Thabeet and Reggie Jackson entered the game for the first time and helped energize the Thunder in its 7-0 run to end the first quarter, which extended into a 28-8 run through the middle of the second quarter. By setting the tone defensively, the second unit broke the game open.

“Staying within our principles,” Martin explained. “But also realizing there were some opportunities, getting them late into the shot clock and that they were going to have to make some passes to get a wide open shot. We just didn’t let them do that tonight.”

Martin had an ever-efficient 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while Westbrook had 24 points and seven assists while Durant racked up a 19-point, 10-rebound, four-assist, two-steal night. While that trio, along with Serge Ibaka, often hefts a lot of the scoring load, the Thunder got an essential 43 points from its bench tonight, along with a lot of energy. Thabeet in particular set the tone with three rebounds and a block in his first two minutes, and Jackson tossed out six assists on the night to help get teammates easy looks. As a whole, the second unit was impressive, allowing the Thunder to play all 13 active players tonight and get everyone involved.

“We’ve been getting better,” Collison said. “Defensively we’ve been good. I thought Hasheem was great tonight. He was reacting to balls and changing shots and rebounding. We were getting out and running. With that group we have to get some easy buckets. So if we can get some stops and get out and run, that’s good for us.”

Turning Point:
It was a tie ball game at 22-22 with 2:08 remaining in the first quarter, but the Thunder proceeded to outscore the Mavericks 39 to 12 over the span of 11 minutes, eventually leading 61-34 with 3:30 remaining in the first half. It started on the defensive end for the Thunder as Kevin Martin made a steal, gave it up to Russell Westbrook and then got it back for an alley-oop. Martin then hit a three, Reggie Jackson hit a floater in the lane and Hasheem Thabeet grabbed three rebounds in the span of a minute to end the first quarter on a 7-0 run. That momentum continued into the second quarter, when the Thunder got eight assisted baskets plus multiple fast break layups to push the lead out even further.

“It created a lot of momentum for us,” Martin said. “There’s always a point in the game where you have a chance to bust the lead open. That was it for us right there. Hasheem, he came in and altered shots and blocked shots. He was great.”

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perkins slaps the ball away out top to disrupt the Mavericks’ possession. Great outlet pass by Perkins to pitch ahead to Sefolosha for a transition layup. Wonderful recognition of the double-team in the high post by Ibaka, who then passed to the corner for an open three pointer from Sefolosha. Thabeet battles hard on the defensive glass and saves the ball in bounds. Collison and Durant execute a perfect back-door pass. Westbrook puts pressure on Shawn Marion on an offensive rebound attempt and helps the Thunder regain possession. Beautiful one-handed pass by Durant to Martin on a backdoor cut.

Plays the box score won't show:
Quick hands from Sefolosha to swipe the ball away on a Darren Collison drive. Perfect screen by Westbrook to free up Durant for a jumper. Ibaka hustles back in transition defense to make a block. Great hustle by Ibaka to save a sure layup and take a foul in transition. Brilliant move by Collison to hustle into the corner and knock the ball out of bounds off OJ Mayo. Wonderful no-look pass from Liggins to Thabeet for a jam.

“We were getting our hands on a lot of basketballs, getting deflections. The best thing about it though, when you’re up a lot of points, you still have to play the same way. I think we did that tonight in the second half especially. The second unit I think started us off on that run. We have to build some momentum off of this and continue to keep getting better.” – Kevin Durant