Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Pistons

PISTONS 79

THUNDER 99
5-for-6 The 3-point shooting numbers for James Harden on the night, which amounts to 83.3%

13 First half assists by the Thunder, including 5 from Russell Westbrook, matching game-averages

14-2 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder in the pivotal first quarter

15-1 Fast break points advantage for the Thunder in the pivotal first quarter

18-2 Run by the Thunder in the final 7 minutes of the first quarter to break the game open

18 First half points by James Harden, on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range

26.8% The shooting percentage that the Thunder held the Pistons to in the first half, the lowest shooting percentage in a half for a Thunder opponent since the Cavaliers shot 26.5% on December 12, 2010

The Thunder will practice on Tuesday before hosting the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma and will also be broadcast on the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then goes back on the road to face Golden State on Friday night and the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.

"Our thing is just us being competitive, helping one another and being focused," guard Thabo Sefolosha said. "So, I think we did a good job the last two games and we have to keep going."

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
From the opening tip, it was more-than-evident that the Thunder came ready to play their style of basketball in their first action at Chesapeake Energy Arena in over a week. From the pressure defense and hard-nosed rebounding to the quickness and penchant to get out on the fast break, the Thunder jumped out to a 29-12 lead in the first quarter and never looked back as they entertained their home crowd to the tune of a 99 to 79 victory thanks to 24 points apiece from James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

"James and Russell kind of got going there and kind of led us to that big lead," forward Kevin Durant said. "Guys were making shots, we were passing the basketball and we got some stops to get some easy points. So it was a good game for us... We got a good win, I think on the defensive end we had our best game of the season, I think."

On the offensive end, Westbrook got the rim at will and Harden seemingly couldn't miss from 3-point land, but Durant's defense on Tayshaun Prince was also particularly noteworthy. In the first half Prince was not only held to only one made basket, but Durant's defense was so smothering that Prince also only had four total shot attempts to go with only one rebound. In fact, the Thunder's defense was so impressive that in the first quarter that if you removed Rodney Stuckey from the Pistons lineup the Thunder only allowed 6 points and 4 rebounds. It was a point of emphasis for the Thunder and Durant to keep Prince in check coming into the contest.

"Tayshaun Prince, once he gets those guys going, they have a pretty good game," Durant said. "I just wanted to do my best on him, make him shoot tough shots. He had a nice game against Portland when they won... So I just wanted to stop him and (Head) Coach (Scott Brooks) told me before the game to make an effort to try to stop him. So I just made it tough for him, forced him to my teammates and we got a good win."

It was yet another opportunity for Thunder players who typically get major minutes to rest up, as none of the starters played in the fourth quarter. Developing reserves such as Reggie Jackson and Cole Aldrich saw extended minutes, which will only help them as they work to improve within the Thunder's nurturing system. Jackson finished with three points and two assists while running the offense and Aldrich had four points and five rebounds in ten minutes of action. Essential players who typically don't get many minutes in Lazar Hayward and Royal Ivey also saw quite a bit of playing time at the end of the fourth quarter as the Thunder's starters were able to kick back, relax and smile after a well-earned victory.

"I think anytime you get guys minutes it's going to help," Brooks said. "It adds reps to their game and Reggie and Cole, they work hard every day. Cole doesn't get a lot of work but he gives us everything he has in practice. He makes our team better. He's an important part of our team. It's good to see him play. He played well tonight. He has to stay ready. Reggie is getting better every day. It's not an easy position to play, but he's understanding and improving every day."

Two players truly defined the Thunder's effort tonight, as Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka both imposed their will on the defensive end throughout the contest that featured a second straight 50+ rebounding night for the Thunder. Ibaka finished with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots to go along with his six points and two assists. Sefolosha had not only the defensive play of the night, but possibly the season when he single-handedly stopped a 3-on-1 Pistons fast break by first blocking a layup attempt, then swatting away the ball from another Pistons player as the game clock in the third quarter ran out. It was a truly Thunder moment that brought the Chesapeake Energy Arena to its highest levels of noise on the night and one.

"We're really tough to score against when we can play like this," Sefolosha said. "Everybody is engaged, and as I said, the team helped one another. Guards helped big guys, big guys helped the guards and it's huge for us."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point in this one happened early, as the Thunder turned an 11-8 lead with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter into a 29-10 lead with just under a minute left in the quarter. The 18-2 burst put the game out of reach for the Pistons, who never got closer than 17 after the first quarter. During the stretch the Thunder held Detroit to 1-of 10 shooting and forced them into three turnovers. On the offensive end, Westbrook hit three jump shots and made a layup, James Harden scored five points and Serge Ibaka gathered five rebounds. It was Ibaka's back-to-back rebounds that ended with a put-back lay-in that got the Chesapeake Energy Arena most excited, although Harden's 3-pointer that rolled around the rim before dropping drew quite a reaction from not only the Thunder faithful, but from Russell Westbrook, who dropped the ball off to him during the secondary break.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Serge Ibaka with a block, then Kevin Durant with a steal, pushing tempo until Russell Westbrook gets a follow-up lay-in... Westbrook with a great outlet pass to Durant for a fast-break lay-in... Then Westbrook brings the house down when he authoritatively slams one home off a great screen at the top of the key... Perfect switching, rotating defense that sets up a scintillating Westbrook to Durant behind the back transition score... Westbrook offering encouragement and tactical advice to James Harden as he enters the game... Westbrook jumping with excitement after he dropped a pass off to James Harden for a 3-pointer... Harden using his patented "Euro-step" move to finish a fast-break layup... Westbrook going high off the glass on a post-up move... A wonderful no-look pass from Harden to Durant, then three offensive rebounds for Serge Ibaka to finish off a possession with a lay-in... Nazr Mohammed communicating with Durant and Harden on defense to call out screens and switches... Durant trying out Harden's "Euro-step" move and drawing a foul... Nick Collison drawing a charge with only seconds remaining in the quarter... Mohammed slipping from a screen for Harden, who found him with a bounce-pass for a lay-up... Durant shaking his head in awe after Harden drove the hoop for yet another lay-up... An extremely athletic sequence for Kendrick Perkins, who fed a no-look pass to Harden then followed it up on the other end with a block... Westbrook stealing the ball right back after a missed shot... Unreal block by Thabo Sefolosha on Tayshaun Prince right at the rim, then Sefolosha single-handedly stops a 3-on-1 fast break to end the half.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Durant getting back in transition to knock the ball away from swift-footed guard Brandon Knight... Durant pulling up in transition, then attacking and dropping the ball off to Ibaka for a dunk... Westbrook slicing through the lane again for another dunk. He moves so fast that if you look down to type for one second, you'll miss him... Thunder players exchanging high-fives after every play, positive or negative... Westbrook seeing Durant down-court on a run-out and tossing it to him over the heads of three defenders... great job by Mohammed and Westbrook to battle on the offensive glass for an extra possession... Durant rising up to challenge a Knight lay-up attempt... Harden finding Westbrook at the end of the third quarter, who hit a double-clutch, buzzer-beating jumper and received a roar from the crowd... Ibaka skying high to challenge a Jason Maxiell dunk attempt... Reggie Jackson driving the lane, then wheeling around to find Daequan Cook for an open 3-point attempt... Cole Aldrich battling hard on the defensive boards... A beautiful driving dish from Mohammed to Aldrich for a slam that brought the Thunder crowd to its feet... Jackson retrieving a ball that was tapped around among the trees for a defensive board... Aldrich with an amazing put-back slam that blew the roof off the place... Nice passing from the reserves to go with tough rebounding and defending to cap the win.