THUNDER 104
RAPTORS 92
3 Steals for Russell Westbrook on the afternoon. All five Thunder starters had a steal.

5 Number of players who scored in double figures for the Thunder, keeping the team undefeated when that happens

7 Number of assists each for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, part of the Thunder’s 24 on the day

8 Number of rebounds each for Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison

26-17 Point differential in the Thunder’s favor in the third quarter

41-31Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the afternoon

46-32 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder over the Raptors

49.4 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the night, including 58.1 percent shooting on two-point field goal attempts



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
With toughness and physicality, the Thunder locked in on the defensive end in the second half, and that was the difference in the team’s 104-92 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.

It was a full team effort as five different Thunder players scored in double figures, including Russell Westbrook who had 23 points, Kevin Durant who had 22, Kevin Martin who had 16 and Nick Collison who added 10. The fifth player was Serge Ibaka, who chipped in an efficient 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting, in addition to eight rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. That type of stat line is becoming a regular occurrence for Ibaka, whose offensive game is continuing to develop.

“That’s what he does and he’s pretty good at it,” Martin said. “He had a great game for us and it was a great team win today.”

While Ibaka’s hot shooting start when he went 6-for-7 from the floor was a major key to the Thunder’s victory, it was he and his teammates’ work on the glass that made the biggest impact. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club out-rebounded the Raptors by ten on the afternoon, including eight rebounds for Collison and seven each for Durant and Kendrick Perkins. That effort helped the Thunder move to 6-0 on the season when out-rebounding its opponent by 10 or more. Thunder players were boxing out, using proper fundamentals, and also hustling on the offensive end to create 15 points off 12 offensive rebounds.

“I think Serge and Perk and Nick have done a good job in that area in the last 12-15 games,” Brooks said. “Offensive rebounding, it’s important because if you can get extra possessions that’s demoralizing to the opponent. I think our guys did a good job with that tonight.”

After allowing more easy buckets than it would like in the second quarter, the Thunder focused in on the defensive end, made the Raptors play in the half court and forced them into difficult shot attempts. In fact, the Thunder held the Raptors to 36.4 percent shooting in the second half. The Thunder forced multiple shot clock violations and made the Raptors run their offensive sets deep into the shot clock, then contested every shot.

“We didn’t want to get beat in transition,” Brooks said. “That’s always our first line of defense and make sure that we don’t give any open shots in transition, layups, dunks or three point opportunities. We did that. We forced them to move the ball and find the second side of the floor.”

Using those defensive stops, along with eight steals, the Thunder turned defense into offense, which turned into balanced scoring throughout the afternoon. Westbrook and Durant were intent on distributing the ball, and each finished with seven assists. That unselfishness became contagious, as each Thunder starter had at least two assists on the afternoon.

“That’s definitely going to be a continued key going into every game,” Brooks said. “We just have to keep moving the basketball. We’re good when we force the defense to chase the ball around and the ball finds a good shot. It’s not really who finds it, as long as it’s a good shot. We’ve done that most of the year and we just have to continue to build on those habits.”

This afternoon’s game against the Raptors was the first of a stretch that includes 11-of-13 games on the road. It will be a challenging month for the Thunder, but one that it is excited to take on because of the opportunities to grow and gel as a unit. The team led by Durant and Westbrook already is very close on and off the court, but this road swing will be a chance to increase that familiarity with one another.

“We have a trust here in this locker room and our bond is very tight,” Martin said. “We just want to go out there and play together at home, and now we just have to take it on the road.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder lead only 60-59 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter, but used a 16-2 run over the ensuing five minutes to build a 76-61 lead with 2:04 remaining in the quarter. The Thunder lead never dipped below nine after that. The run started with a Serge Ibaka jumper off a Russell Westbrook assist, then Ibaka hit another shot at elbow after a pass from Kendrick Perkins. Westbrook knocked in four straight points, Kevin Durant hit a running bank shot, Nick Collison hit a jumper then the Thunder made three free throws to cap the run. The Thunder forced four missed shots and four turnovers during the stretch.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Great start defensively by Westbrook to knock away two passes on the wing. Solid defense, helping around screens, by the Thunder to force a shot clock violation. Good positioning by Collison to step in and draw a charge. Nice vision by Durant to drive the lane and kick to the corner for a high percentage three-point shot from Thabo Sefolosha.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Quick hands by Sefolosha to snag a steal then a sharp pass to Westbrook in a 3-on-2 fast break for a layup. Perkins with great timing on defense to contest a shot and force a last-second pass that resulted in a turnover. Beautiful passing from Durant to Perkins on the block, who then hit Ibaka at the elbow for a jumper. Perfect defensive rotations by the Thunder to protect the paint against the pick and roll by the entire Thunder defense. Incredible quickness and instincts by Westbrook to drive the lane and drop a bounce pass off to Perkins for a dunk.



“We started the game off with good defense and the second half was good defense. That’s how we win, that’s how we play and that’s how we score, off of our defense… I thought it was a good win. Everybody participated, everybody chipped in and everybody did their job.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
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