THUNDER 117
NETS 111
3 Blocked shots for Serge Ibaka, in addition to 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting

7 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, a team-high, in addition to seven points

9 Points for Eric Maynor in addition to three assists

9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, increasing his top-10 in the NBA season average

14 Points for Thabo Sefolosha on 6-for-8 shooting

20-9 Advantage for the Thunder in fast break points

30-for-34 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 12-for-12 shooting by Kevin Durant

60.6 Field goal shooting percentage by the Thunder, a season-high

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
BROOKLYN – Basketball can be both beautiful and a slug-it-out affair in the span of minutes. The key is to be able to adjust and adapt, then be mentally tough enough to find the winning balance.

In the Thunder’s 117-111 road victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club managed to put on an efficient and smooth offensive performance. With 60.6 percent shooting performance from the floor while also going 7-for-14 from three-point land and 30-for-34 from the free throw line, the Thunder offense was firing on all cylinders.

“I think we took great shots tonight, nobody really forced anything,” guard Eric Maynor said. “We shared the ball and if we continue to do that, it’s going to hard to beat us.”

When the momentum of the game swung, however, and the Thunder needed to grind it out of a few possessions and make the grittiest of plays, it got those too. The game finally turned on one such play, when guard Thabo Sefolosha snagged a long offensive rebound then drove to the rim to get a much-needed bucket late in the fourth quarter.

“We were able to be a little more aggressive, defend and rebound the ball,” Russell Westbrook said of the fourth quarter. “Thabo has been great all year hustling and did a good job of getting the rebound… Thabo has been shooting the ball great for us all season long. He’s been shooting the ball with confidence, so it’s good.”

The mental toughness and resiliency the Thunder showed to deny the Nets a complete comeback was the difference in the game, considering Brooklyn cut the Thunder margin to two on four occasions, but never broke through. One reason was the big driving layup by Sefolosha, but that was preceded by a charge that Nick Collison took in transition in the closing seconds of the third quarter and a remarkable one-on-one defensive possession by Kendrick Perkins, who stuck with All-Star point guard Deron Williams and eventually blocked his shot.

“Those are the little things that help you win games,” Brooks said. “Those are winning basketball plays by winning players that don’t care about anything but winning. I love Nick Collison, I love Perk, those guys are always about wins. They don’t get a lot of credit, they just do the dirty work and they do it every night and they have fun doing it and they help us win games.”

The minor details are areas in which the Thunder has made a concerted effort to improve this year, and tonight’s game highlighted that. At the same time, when it comes down to crunch time Brooks and his team know they can count on one of their main leaders, Kevin Durant. The three-time All-NBA selection scored 32 points on only 16 shots while going 12-for-12 from the free throw line. While not every possession ended up in a score, the Thunder went to Durant with a post-up at the elbow on multiple possessions in a row to initiate its offense.

“I always want to be a go-to guy in the fourth, that’s what I live for,” Durant said. “Not always looking to score, but looking to get my guys good shots and giving them confidence to make those shots from the floor.”

As the 24-year-old Durant continues his maturation process and finds more and more ways to empower his own teammates to make plays, the team will improve. Throughout the course of the game Durant’s leadership shines through, and it can be seen through the play of those who don’t log a ton of minutes. Eric Maynor played 14 crucial minutes in the Thunder’s narrow win, and scored nine points to go with three assists. Perhaps his biggest bucket of the game was on a three-pointer when Durant recognized a double team on him in the post and kicked it out to Maynor of a top-of-the-key swish.

“I felt good about it when I shot it, so I’m going to keep shooting the same shot,” Maynor said. “I’m trying to play a little faster… I’m trying to get a little bit more pace to it in transition. Scotty has been telling me about that, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Durant’s trust in his teammates in those situations is vital to the success of the offense as a whole, which becomes even more potent when players like Maynor or Sefolosha, who scored 14 points, get involved. Some core members however, like Serge Ibaka, are counted on to convert shots every single night. With each game it seems Ibaka finds a new way to put the ball in the basket, and that offensive versatility provides the Thunder with a nice dynamic that his teammates appreciate.

“(Serge) works really hard,” Collison said. “He has since he’s been here. He’s a machine. He’s in there every day, off days working on different things… We need him to be a threat. We need more guys to be threats because Kevin and Russell draw so much attention and they have for a long time. Other guys are going to have opportunities.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder built a 16 point lead in the third quarter only to see it erased to a two point advantage on four separate occasions in the final 13 minutes of play. With 2:14 remaining in the game, the Thunder clung to a 108-106 advantage when Kevin Durant shook his man and got to the rim, banking the ball against the backboard and getting a goaltending call against Kris Humphries, which gave the Thunder a four point lead. The Thunder forced three tough missed shots in a row and Thabo Sefolosha came up with a huge offensive rebound and put it back in to give the Thunder a six point lead. The Nets would get as close as four twice more, but the Thunder held strong.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Beautiful ball movement as Serge Ibaka swung the ball and made the extra pass to Kevin Durant for a corner three. Great play call by coach Brooks to have Ibaka slip a screen away from the ball and get a dunk on a pass from Russ. Good defensive positioning and quick feet by Martin to stay in front of his man and force a travel.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Great job by Westbrook to manipulate the pick-and-roll then hit Perkins with a nice bounce-pass for a layup. Incredible strength by Ibaka to make a two-handed slam dunk through contact after a nice feed from Durant. Huge momentum play as Collison steps in and takes a charge at the end of the third quarter. Collison dives on the ground for a loose ball. Incredible defensive possession by Perkins to lock up Deron Williams and block his shot.



“We know it is a long game. We just wanted to keep playing. We always have been a resilient team. We always know games go up and down. We just wanted to be solid and make the right plays, which we did, and get stops.” – Kevin Durant
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