3 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka, part of eight for the Thunder as a team

6 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 25 points and four rebounds

8 Steals for the Thunder on the night, including two each from Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha

11 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins in 23 minutes of action

26-15 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points tonight, where it shot 7-for-11

26-for-31 The Thunder’s free throw shooting numbers on the night, including 14-for-16 from Kevin Durant

34 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to seven rebounds and five assists

34-26 The scoring margin in the Thunder’s favor in the first quarter
March 19th, 2013

Sometimes in the NBA shots stop falling, but as the Thunder progresses as a unit throughout the year, it aims to be able to withstand those nights by excelling in other areas.

Tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Denver Nuggets, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club started the game strong by building a 10-point lead in the first half, but a 22-6 run by the Nuggets that spanned the halftime break spurred a 114-104 Thunder loss. Suddenly going cold from the outside, where the Thunder shot 4-for-25 from three-point land on the night was combined with an inability make the stops the Thunder wanted to on the other end of the floor to make a complete comeback. Brooks’ squad cut a 13-point Nuggets lead to five in the closing minutes, but couldn’t quite get over the hump.

“They deserve the credit tonight,” Brooks said. “There are a number of things that we can get better from and learn from and we will. Our guys have always done that and there’s no reason for me to believe that’s not going to continue to happen.”

The areas in particular that stood out to Thunder players and Brooks after the game were points in the apint, where the Nuggets outscored the Thunder 72-50 and rebounding, where Denver held a plus-7 advantage and a plus-8 advantage in second chance points. Denver came into the game towards the top of the league in nearly every scoring category, so it was no surprise to Thunder leaders like Kevin Durant. For the Thunder, it is just a matter of learning from this one and finding a way to do better next time out.

“They got to the paint, that’s what they do,” Durant said. “In the third quarter I think we just went cold. We missed shots that we normally make and dunks and three pointers weren’t going. We fought and we’ve got to stay positive because we’ve got a game tomorrow. We just have to continue to stay positive and keep pushing.”

Fortunately for the Thunder, that next time on the floor comes mighty quickly. The team immediately departed Oklahoma City after the game for Memphis, where it will square off against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. The gift of the NBA is that there’s always a game right around the corner, which presents another opportunity to grow, learn and put the previous night’s lessons to the test.

“We have to put this one behind us, first off,” Durant said. “We can’t dwell on it too long and let it seep into tomorrow. We have to know our game plan. We can switch it up. We can play it fast or we can play a grind it out game. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and bounce back tomorrow. Hopefully we do.”

Like Denver, Memphis is one of the best teams in the Western Conference, in addition to being a physical opponent that likes to score in the paint, so the Thunder has its work cut out. Brooks’ clubs have traditionally been excellent in bounce-back games, posting a league-best 29-6 mark after losses since the start of the 2011-12 season. With veteran leaders like Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher, the Thunder will be ready for its next test in Memphis tomorrow night.

“In this league you have to do it quickly,” Brooks said. “We have a game against another top team in the west—Memphis, at their place. We’ll learn from it. We’ll watch the film, break it down and have a meeting tomorrow and get better from it.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder led 64-58 with 1:37 left in the first half, but over the next eight minutes of play, the Nuggets would go on a 22-6 run to turn the game around. It started with two dunks and an and-one layup to end the first half for the Nuggets, while the Thunder only scored on a Kevin Durant tip-in, making it 66-65 Thunder at halftime. Coming out of the half, the Nuggets went on a 15-4 run, starting with a Danilo Gallinari three-pointer and continuing with buckets in the paint by Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos and Ty Lawson. When Andre Iguodala made a fast break dunk with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter, the Nuggets led 80-70 and its lead would never dip below five from there on out.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perkins plays tough interior defense on multiple possessions to create fast break opportunities for the Thunder. Durant hustles to track down a loose ball off a missed Denver free throw. Perkins gets to the front of the rim and tracks the ball, kicking it back out to an open Sefolosha for three. Perkins and Durant hustle after a defensive board, creating a fast break chance for the Thunder. Nice use of a rhythm dribble by Westbrook to reset himself along the baseline. Martin hustles back in transition to make a steal and prevent a fast break.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Well-drawn in-bounds play by Brooks to get Westbrook an alley-oop. Sefolosha uses his length to get in the passing lane and save a steal back in bounds. Ibaka fights for a loose ball and puts home his own miss. Slick baseline cut by Sefolosha and a nice feed from Westbrook gets a bucket. Ibaka hustles and dives on the floor to force a shot clock violation. Great focus by Sefolosha to pick his man’s pocket then dish ahead. Tough defense by Jackson to cut off a drive then scrap for the rebound. Incredible defense by Sefolosha to force a shot-clock violation.

“We’re a prideful group and our guys, they love to compete and they want to win every game. That’s why we have the record that we do have right now. We’ll figure it out tomorrow and come with the same amount of energy to beat that team tomorrow night. It’s going to be tough game but we’re ready for the challenge.” –Head Coach Scott Brooks