Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Rockets

THUNDER 95

ROCKETS 96
4 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka. The Thunder had 7 total

7 Players with 4 or more rebounds for the Thunder, who had 45 total rebounds

9 Times the game was tied

10 Important minutes played by Royal Ivey, who provided a spark

12 Lead changes throughout the course of the game

18 Point deficit that the Thunder overcame

33 Points by Kevin Durant, including 7-for-7 shooting from the free throw line

48 Points in the paint by the Thunder on the night

The Thunder returns home for its first of five straight at Chesapeake Energy Arena when it hosts the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then hosts two consecutive home back-to-backs when it faces the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Hornets on Sunday and Monday then the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and Thursday .

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
After a first quarter when the Thunder seemingly couldn't put the ball in the basket, Head Coach Scott Brooks' crew battled all the way back from an 18-point deficit to make it a game and eventually take the lead. Down the stretch, unfortunately, the Thunder had five looks at the basket in the last 20 seconds but couldn't convert as it fell 96-95 in Houston to the Rockets. It wasn't the shooting, however, that negated the big comeback according to Brooks, it was the turnovers.

"I think the thing is, the thing all season long that we're trying to correct, and we must get better, is turnovers," Brooks said. "We gave up the ball 22 times... I don't know how we do it. We're in every game and we give up the ball too many times."

The Thunder now averages 17.1 turnovers per game on the season, much higher than what Brooks would like to see from his club. After a first quarter where the Thunder turned the ball over five times and shot only 25% from the field, Brooks turned to his bench, and in particular Royal Ivey to get the Thunder back into the game. What was an 18-point deficit seconds into the second quarter turned into a one-point deficit at halftime, and it was a result of an 18-4 run led by the reserves and then amplified by starters like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

"Our bench," Westbrook said. "Royal, Reggie (Jackson), those guys came in and did a good job of coming in with positive energy defensively. It helped us out."

Brooks said that Ivey, "came in and gave them the spark that they needed," Despite the fact that Ivey had only seen action in five games this season before this one, averaging 5.4 minutes per game, he looked poised and ready to make an impact during his 10 minutes of action on the night. From making hustle plays like running down a Rocket on the fast break and flicking the ball away to using his energy to light a fire under the starters, Ivey was a true asset tonight. Unfortunately for the Thunder, it just barely came up short in the end as Durant missed three jump shots in the last 15 seconds and Westbrook just barely missed a tap-in attempt that would have won it at the buzzer.

"Down the stretch we missed some shots. They were good looks," Brooks said. "We normally would make a few of those. We had good rhythm in that fourth quarter. We just couldn't make a basket. They were good looks, the execution was good."

TURNING POINT:
While the Thunder didn't ultimately end up with the victory tonight, it did create the turning point in the game, which made what looked like a blowout Rockets victory into a close ball game for the entirety of the second half. Just after the second quarter began, the Rockets took a commanding 31-13 lead. In the seven minutes that followed, the Thunder turned that 18 point deficit into a four-point disadvantage when Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer to cut the Rockets lead to 35-31 with 5:21 remaining in the half. That 18-4 run by the Thunder was sparked by its defense, particularly the hustle by Royal Ivey and the rest of the second unit. During the run, Russell Westbrook and James Harden both hit 3-pointers, and Nick Collison had six points. As a result of that run, no team had a lead greater than five points in the second half.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
In a frantic sequence, good awareness by Kevin Durant to steal a save attempt, then nice work by Daequan Cook to break up an alley-oop attempt... Great recovery by Serge Ibaka to contest two shots at the rim and then awareness to pick up a loose ball... Nice job of getting his feet set by Russell Westbrook to draw a charge in the lane... An emphatic block by Ibaka to send one into the second row... Beautiful hustle by all five Thunder players to keep an offensive rebound alive and give themselves a second opportunity... Westbrook continuing to attack and get after offensive rebounds... Good tip-in by Nick Collison to tip in a Reggie Jackson miss... Solid defensive instincts by James Harden to deflect a dribble away from a Rocket, then helping force a 24-second violation... Slicing drive by Harden finished with a dish and dunk to Collison... Tough rebounding by Westbrook to wrangle in a defensive board... Nice dish from Westbrook to Collison for a slam dunk... Collison setting a great screen and flipping the ball to Westbrook for a rhythm 3-pointer... Unselfish passing from Durant to Kendrick Perkins to Harden then a strong offensive rebound and put-back by Ibaka... Ibaka makes Kyle Lowry bail on a layup attempt at the rim for fear of being blocked... Nice hustle by Durant to grab a loose ball then take it all the way down the other end for two points... Outstanding defense to stop Kevin Martin's drive to force a turnover.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
A perfect screen by Perkins to free up Cook for a long jumper... A great job by Durant to clear out some space under the rim for himself to complete a three-point play... Westbrook bursting to the rim to convert with the foul... Incredible hustle by Westbrook to fly across the lane to grab a loose ball and find Durant for a 3-pointer... Nice job of contesting at the rim by Perkins, Ibaka and Cook... Perkins stands tall in the post and keeps Luis Scola out of the lane... Perfect team defense to keep the Rockets out of the lane... Great outlet pass from Perkins to Durant, who made a spectacular behind-the-back dribble to evade a defender... Precise defensive rotations by the Thunder, then a wonderful drive-and-dish by Durant to find Reggie Jackson for a 3-pointer... Royal Ivey and Jackson getting back in transition defense to make a steal... Ivey picks another Rocket's pocket and then Harden finishes it on the other end... Good positioning by Collison to snare a defensive rebound, the Perkins drives to the middle and finds a corner-cutting Harden for a 3-pointer... Perkins then grabs a tough defensive rebound and finds Westbrook who blows by the defense and gets to the rim... Nice work on the defensive switch by Perkins to force a turnover... Then Westbrook makes a beautiful no-look pass to Durant for an emphatic dunk... High intensity by the Thunder defense to force two consecutive turnovers... Bullet pass from Harden to Durant for an alley-oop lay-in... Good job contesting a Scola shot by Collison and boxing out by Perkins to grab a rebound... Great double team by Collison and Perkins to block a shot... Incredible hustle by Perkins to fight for an offensive rebound and knock the ball off a Rocket... More hustle by the Thunder to keep the ball alive and give itself more chances at the rim.