Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Nets

THUNDER 84

NETS 74
5 Number of players with 6+ rebounds for the Thunder tonight (Durant, Perkins, Ibaka, Sefolosha and Harden)

6 Blocked shots in the first half by the Thunder, including four by Serge Ibaka. The Thunder finished with 10 blocks.

7 Steals in the first half by the Thunder, matching their season-average. The Thunder finished with 8 steals.

15 Rebounds by Kevin Durant, three short of his career high

22 Points off turnovers for the Thunder

31% The Nets' field goal percentage, the lowest percentage ever allowed by a Thunder defense

35 Points allowed by the Thunder in the first half

74 Total points allowed by the Thunder, a season-low

The Thunder will end its road trip and return home for a Monday night tilt against the Detroit Pistons. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma and will also be broadcast on the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder hosts the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night before taking to the road again to face the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
After dropping just its third game of the season on Wednesday night at Washington, the Thunder was refocused and on its defensive game on Saturday night, beating the New Jersey Nets 84 to 74. A stifling defense held the Nets to only 35 points in the first half, including less than 20 points in both quarters. A 17-2 spurt late in the first quarter was when the tide turned, as the Thunder took a 14-point advantage that was never threatened again. James Harden, who tied his career high with nine rebounds, was emphatic about the reason for the victory.

"Our defense," Harden said. "From the beginning, I think they only had 35 points at halftime. We wanted to get our hands on a lot of balls and easy buckets in transition."

Not only was the Thunder's 74 points allowed a season low, but it was its 3-point defense and ability to protect the rim that really stifled any attempt by the Nets to make a serious run at the lead. The Nets shot 3-of-23 (13%) from the 3-point line due to tough pressure from the Thunder's perimeter defenders and the threat of shot blockers like Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins protecting the paint. The duo combined for seven blocks, including a fierce send-back by Ibaka on a dunk attempt by Nets guard Deron Williams.

"I thought tonight's game was a defensive battle," Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "Both teams really played hard on the defensive end and made it tough for both of us to score. I thought our guards did a great job of rebounding. That was one of our areas that we needed to get better going into this game."

The Thunder jumped out to a 28-14 first quarter lead after its run and never looked back, hoping to use the last game of its three-game road trip as a refocusing opportunity after a loss to the Wizards as they moved to 13-3. Throughout the night Brooks' crew pounded the glass, corralling a season-high 55 rebounds, including 15 for Kevin Durant. The Thunder, a resilient bunch, moved to 22-6 in games immediately after a loss, which Harden said was a major focus as the team had two days to prepare for New Jersey.

"We wanted to bounce back from last game," Harden said. "We're going to lose some games, but we want to do a good job of bouncing back. We did a good job from the beginning, all 48 minutes."

While the Thunder excelled defensively, it did not have its best night shooting the ball. It was a testament to its tough defense, second chance points and points off turnovers that it was able to create separation from the Nets and then continue to clamp down on the perimeter. The Nets attempted to make a comeback by hoisting 3-point shots, but the play of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha and others on the outside held Williams and fellow Nets guard MarShon Brooks to a combined 0-for-10 from distance.

"We want to keep contesting threes and going into this game we knew that was one of their strengths, they take a lot and make a lot of threes," Brooks said. "But we did a fairly decent job of forcing their backcourt to take some tough shots."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point in this one came pretty early, when the Thunder trailed 12-11 with 5:19 remaining in the first quarter. Over the next five minutes the Thunder went on a 17-2 run, giving it a comfortable advantage that it never relinquished. The run was book-ended by two Kevin Durant steals and fast break dunks. It all started when the Thunder regained the lead on a Thabo Sefolosha deflection that turned into a Durant steal and slam. Russell Westbrook then knocked down an elbow jumper, Durant sliced through the lane and dished to Kendrick Perkins for a dunk, James Harden made a heads up pass to Durant off an in-bounds play and Reggie Jackson knocked down a 3-pointer. The key to the run was the Thunder’s defense, which forced five nets turnovers during that span.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong offensive board by Serge Ibaka, who slams it home… Kendrick Perkins setting a perfect screen to set up a Russell Westbrook jumper… Quick cross-court pass from Kevin Durant to Westbrook for a three… Three straight offensive rebounds by Perkins and Ibaka… Ibaka coming back into the lane to swat a Deron Williams shot at the rim… Sefolosha gets his hand on the ball, it caroms to Durant who flushes home a jam… Nice drive by Durant who kept the dribble alive long enough to find Perkins for a dunk… On his first play in the game, James Harden made a heads up in-bounds pass to Durant for an alley-oop layup… Wonderful job by Westbrook to get around a Deron Williams post-up to make a steal… Westbrook slicing through the lane, carving out space for himself… Serge Ibaka sending a Deron Williams dunk attempt right back where it came from… Another break up of a Williams post-up by Westbrook… Collison and Westbrook executing the pick-and-roll to perfection… Perkins taking the ball off the dribble into the lane and finding a cutting Harden, who drew a foul…Ibaka cuts into the lane and Durant zips a nice pass to him to draw a foul… Solid team defense to disrupt a Deron Williams drive then force a missed contested Kris Humphries jump shot.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
The Thunder defense forcing two shot clock violations in a row early in the half… Ibaka anticipating an offensive rebound off a Perkins post-up move, then laying it back in… A slick Westbrook low crossover-dribble in the lane to get to the basket and draw a foul… Ibaka fighting for a defensive rebound then communicating with Westbrook to deliver a precise outlet pass… Jackson taking a drive through a zone defense and hitting a floater… Harden and Durant force a Nets turnover by clamping down on a baseline drive… Harden splitting a double team, then finding a way right to the hoop for a lay-in…A nice hesitation move by Jackson to draw a foul and two free throws… The Thunder breaking the Nets’ full-court press early in the fourth quarter…A strong block by Harden for the Thunder’s 10th of the night… An offensive board by Sefolosha, who swung it to Durant, who drove and kicked to Harden for a 3-pointer… A heads-up pass by Sefolosha to Collison on a cut to the rim... An incredible no-look pass from Westbrook to Perkins to draw a foul... Harden feeding Perkins with a no-look pass of a screen-and-roll, then finishing up the play with a put-back lay-up... Important offensive rebound by Sefolosha, who kicked it out to Harden. Harden then found Westbrook for a forceful alley-oop jam... Perfectly angled passing from the Thunder as Westbrook received a pass on a cut, then found a slicing Harden for an exclamation point dunk.