6 Assists for Russell Westbrook, tying a game-high, to go with his 25 points
7-for-13 Field goal shooting numbers for Kevin Durant on his way to 26 points
16 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, one shy of a team season-high
23-4 The run the Thunder went on in the first quarter to take a 13-point lead
21-for-24 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night
32-22 Scoring advantage for the Thunder in the first quarter
43-35 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the night
March 11th, 2013
Good teams take care of their home court. Just like the Thunder, who is 28-4 at home, the San Antonio Spurs area difficult opponent to face on their floor.
In a matchup of the two teams with the best records in the Western Conference, the Thunder burst out to a 13-point first quarter lead, but the Spurs made a big 32-9 run in the second quarter that flipped the game around. Behind hot three-point shooting from Danny Green and some gritty work by Tiago Splitter, the Spurs got knock-down shooting from all over the floor, beating the Thunder 105-93.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club never relented, cutting the Spurs lead to just one point late in the third quarter. Unfortunately, the Spurs went on another little burst to end the quarter and controlled things in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we gave up too many easy shots, then they were able to make the tough shots,” Brooks said. “I like the fact that we fought back and cut it to (one). But then they went on a nice run that we could not stop.”
The Thunder came into the game winners of eight of its previous nine games, but just as the team didn’t overreact to that win streak, it certainly will just self-assess and move onto its next game after this one. One certain aspect about this process-based Thunder squad is that it will always learn from games, win or loss, then immediately turn its attention to how it can play better in its next contest.
Leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook help the team understand that it’s not the result on the scoreboard, but how the Thunder plays night in and night out that is most important.
“We’re fighting more for habits here,” Durant said. “Every day habits and taking care of the little things on the court. Screening, making the right play no matter what. Being in your spot on defense, being in a stance. We’re playing for habits.”
The team might have wished for a better shooting night, fewer turnovers and quicker close-outs to Spurs shooters, but its level of intensity and teamwork with one another was still at a high level. That philosophy was embodied by Durant, who had 26 points on efficient 54 percent shooting while also dishing out five assists. He helped get others, like Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka get involved in the offense as the duo combined for 22 points.
“I was just trying to make the right basketball play,” Durant said. “I was picking and choosing my spots and I trust my teammates.”
Ibaka’s jumper was falling after passes from Durant and Westbrook, but he also snagged eight of his 16 rebounds in the first quarter when the Thunder dominated and jumped out to a 32-22 advantage after 12 minutes. The Thunder finished with a plus-eight rebounding advantage on the night, but it was plus-11 in that first quarter when Westbrook dished out five of the Thunder’s nine assists on 11 made field goals.
The game changed irrevocably in the second quarter during an 11-0 Spurs run fueled by three straight three-pointers, but the Thunder hung tough and battled even when down double-digits. While the team will certainly learn from this one and use it as an opportunity to get better, it knows it must face the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, and that there is plenty of basketball left to be played this season.
“We started off so well, then at the beginning of the second and they hit some shots,” Durant said. “It’s unfortunate, but we’ll see them again.”
The Spurs made two big runs in this game, the first was a 32-9 run in the second quarter, which included an 11-0 run. It started with back-to-back Danny Green three-pointers then a Kawhi Leonard three-pointer in a 59 second span and continued nearly until halftime.
The second run was a 12-4 run to end the third quarter that turned a one-point difference into a nine-point Spurs advantage heading into the final frame. Boris Diaw scored five straight points then Manu Ginobili did the same to close out the quarter.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Westbrook takes an outlet pass and uses his speed to create a one-man fast break. Ibaka rolls to the basket and Westbrook hits him with a perfect pocket pass for a layup. Martin moves into the corner to create a passing lane then knocks down a three-pointer from the wing. Incredible one-handed pass from Durant on the drive to Collison at the dunker spot. Great hustle by Collison and Fisher to charge down a loose ball in the paint. Collison stands in there to take a charge in the lane.
Plays the box score won't show:
Ibaka hustles after a loose ball then takes it coast to coast for a layup. Ibaka fighting hard on the offensive glass to help create a second possession for the Thunder. Ibaka somehow guards two people in the pick and roll to make a block at the rim. Westbrook hustles to grab a loose ball and scores in the fast break. Martin jumps the passing lane to knock the ball out of bounds. Westbrook runs in and hustles for an offensive rebound and kicks it immediately back out.
“We’re playing to build our habits every single day. That’s what drives us. We’re still working.” – Kevin Durant