Regular Season Recap - Thunder at Mavericks

7 Assists for the Thunder’s second unit, which also made four steals

11-5 Scoring differential in second chance points for the Thunder

15 Lead changes in the game, which also featured nine ties

16 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, including seven on the offensive end, in addition to 18 points

17 Total steals (9) and blocks (8) combined by the Thunder

19 Points in the fourth quarter scored by Kevin Durant on 7-for-10 shooting

35 Points for Russell Westbrook on 13-for-23 shooting, in addition to six assists

46-34 Rebounding advantage in the Thunder’s favor, as each starter had at least four rebounds
March 17th, 2013

DALLAS – Up and down the roster, the Thunder has confidence in each man’s ability to step up and make an important play.

Leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook head the charge, but every player that sees the floor is entrusted with certain responsibilities each night. Sunday night against the Dallas Mavericks, in a 107-101 victory, everyone from Serge Ibaka to Reggie Jackson made an impact. It was a back-and-forth game with 15 lead changes throughout the night before Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club ultimately prevailed. Runs by both teams were stopped quickly, as neither team led by more than 7 points.

“I like the way we competed and we showed a competitive spirit throughout the game,” Brooks said. “We had a run, they had a run then we had a run. It kept going back and forth and neither team gave up. I’m just glad we had the last run.” In the final 1:20 of play, the Thunder broke a tie game open with a 6-0 run behind two gutsy jumpers from Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha, along with two stout defensive stops.

“(We were) helping one another and being really aggressive,” Sefolosha said. “I thought our defense was really good down the stretch.”

Stretches of the game seemed to be dominated by a different Thunder player at points, but in the end it was a full team effort that lifted the team to victory. By forcing Dallas into a 24-second violation by playing tough defense then spacing the floor and getting a look at the basket on the offensive end, the Thunder willed themselves to a win.

Westbrook made a big jumper with a hand in his face to put the Thunder up 103-101, then after forcing that shot clock violation, the Mavericks pressured Durant and Westbrook, forcing Sefolosha to attack. He drove left with the seconds dripping off the shot clock, posted his man for one dribble then hit a fall-away jumper with just 12 seconds remaining to seal the win.

“We were able to move the ball and I got a decent shot, a decent look at the basket,” Sefolosha said. “I just looked at the time and thought I had to be aggressive on that play.”

It was almost symbolic the way the Thunder eventually got control of the game, with one of its role players making a big play late. While Serge Ibaka’s energy and effort on the glass carried the team early, Westbrook’s tenacity buoyed the Thunder in the third quarter and Durant’s offensive wizardry dominated the fourth quarter, it was a man who finished with only four points who made the biggest shot of the game.

On the following defensive possession, Kendrick Perkins made multiple efforts to get a stop and it became clear that Brooks’ squad is built to succeed as a unit, with each individual doing everything they can to make a play.

“Everybody has to step up,” Brooks said. “Everybody has a role and they have to believe in that role and make the best of that role and embrace it. And they did that tonight. We had guys step up, whether it was setting the screen, going for a loose ball or getting the rebound for an extra possession.”

As Brooks said, getting extra possessions were critical for the Thunder tonight, as Westbrook and Jackson flew to save balls that were about to go out of bounds and Ibaka tipped offensive boards to teammates. Ibaka’s 18-point, 16-rebound performance was predicated on the unrelenting effort he showed on the offensive glass, garnering extra opportunities.

Those second chances helped turn a sub-par game for Durant into one of his finest of the season. By racking up 19 fourth quarter points on 7-for-10 shooting, Durant took firm control of the game by repeatedly attacking the Mavericks off the dribble. Despite starting 3-for-9 from the field, Durant clocked out with a cool 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting to go with nine rebounds.

“It was good that he was able to turn it around and put it on himself to work harder and get some baskets,” Sefolosha said. “That was great for him and it shows maturity on his part.”

Turning Point:
The game was tied at 101-101 with just 1:20 remaining in the contest, but the Thunder closed things out with a 6-0 run to put the Mavericks away for good. It started when Russell Westbrook made something out of nothing to knock down a mid-range jumper, then the Thunder played a sold possession on defense to force a 24-second shot clock violation. The Mavericks then made sure to take the ball out of Kevin Durant and Westbrook’s hands, so Thabo Sefolosha made the play of the game by driving, posting up and hitting a fall-away jumper to give the Thunder a 105-101 lead with 12 seconds left. Another tough defensive stand ended with a difficult miss for the Mavericks as Kevin Durant grabbed the rebound. He then made two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to ice the game.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perkins sets a strong screen for Westbrook to free him up at the elbow, then he plays tough in the lane to force a miss and grab a rebound. Nice team defense then Durant swats a desperation attempt to force a shot clock violation. Westbrook and Collison do a nice job of doubling down on Vince Carter to force a traveling violation. Ibaka gives the Thunder two extra shots at the rim by tipping offensive rebounds back out. Wonderful patience and vision in the fast break by Westbrook to kick-back and find Martin for three. Westbrook hustles into the corner to save a loose ball, which Ibaka converted into two points.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Solid pressure up top by the Thunder forces the Mavericks into a turnover. Ibaka hustles and fights on the offensive glass to draw a foul and get two attempts. Westbrook makes a sensational play to steal the ball and go coast to coast for a slam dunk. Great double-team by Westbrook and Collison to force a missed shot. Jackson saves the ball in-bounds but smartly puts up a three-pointer to beat the shot clock. Durant communicates and directs traffic to give himself a driving lane to the bucket. Collison hustles to recover his own loose ball and makes a timely bucket.

“Serge Ibaka had amazing energy throughout the game, defensively and rebounding the basketball. I like the fact that Thabo made that last shot… Someone needed to make a play. He found the shot and made a tough shot.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks