7 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also had 27 points and seven rebounds
11 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, who was one of five Thunder players who scored in double figures
13 Blocked shots by the Thunder, including three each from Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins
17-1 The Thunder’s record when it holds an opponent under 90 points like it did tonight
19-3 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points, where it held the Spurs to 1-for-7 shooting
21-13 Advantage in the Thunder’s favor in points off turnovers on the night
25 Points for Kevin Durant on 10-for-20 shooting, in addition to nine rebounds and six assists
March 27th, 2013
NBA teams, particularly high level ones like the San Antonio Spurs, will keep making runs and create game pressure. The key for the Thunder in those situations has always been to remain calm and composed and to execute.
In Thursday night’s victory over the Spurs at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder built leads of 20 points, 19 points and 14 points in the second, third and fourth quarters. Each time the Spurs battled back and made a run, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club was there to get a defensive stop or manufacture a bucket. Late in the game when the Spurs seemed to press the hardest, the Thunder’s leaders stepped up.
Russell Westbrook attacked and knocked down two free throws, then Kevin Durant banged home a three-pointer to turn a three-point edge into an eight point advantage that would never dip below six the rest of the way. Those two offensive plays were key, but according to Durant it was the way the Thunder communicated on the defensive end to make four consecutive stops to end the game that made the difference.
“We just helped each other out,” Durant said. “We used our length and got some blocked shots, got some deflections and we were able to make them miss a few times as well. We have to continue to keep building on that.”
The Thunder looked to one another for help and support throughout the night on the defensive end, as it moved to 17-1 on the season when holding its opponent under 90 points. In addition, the Thunder’s defense held the Spurs to 39.8 percent shooting from the field, out-rebounded San Antonio and out-scored them 21-13 in points off turnovers.
That team-first, effort-based attitude translated from defense to offense, as the Thunder got contributions from everyone on the floor. Thabo Sefolosha was one of five players in double figures for Brooks’ squad, and he explained the mentality the Thunder displayed tonight.
“I think it’s not as much about who scores or who does what,” Sefolosha said. “I think it is just the energy, and the energy level was high from twelve guys.”
One area in which the Thunder was particularly sharp in its unselfish, game-plan specific execution was the way it handled in-bounds plays, plays out of timeouts and the first play of each quarter. Whether it was ping-ponging the ball around the floor on the opening possession of the second half to get a Sefolosha corner three or executing a side-line out-of-bounds play to get Westbrook a three-pointer, the Thunder was crisp. That’s been an area where Brooks has improved as a play designer, but the players have also improved in terms of focus and timing.
“I think we have gotten better,” Westbrook said. “Everyone is running the play the right way even if the play isn’t for them, running it hard and running it the right way.”
When the Thunder runs its sets hard, trusts in the system on both ends of the floor and makes the correct basketball play, good things often happen. That was evident in the first quarter when Brooks’ club had nine assists to zero turnovers, while also allowing the Spurs zero offensive rebounds. With that effort setting the tone, every player got involved and made a positive impact on offense and defense. Derek Fisher scored a crucial 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from three, while the Thunder also got double figure scoring from its typical quartet of Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin.
“We have a lot of good pieces to our puzzle,” Brooks said. “I’m blessed. We have good players. We have good players, and when you have a good team, guys have to step up.”
The Thunder made two runs in this game, of varying stature. The first came late in the first quarter, when the Thunder turned a 21-18 advantage into a 41-21 lead early in the second quarter with a 20-3 run. The burst began with back-to-back Derek Fisher three-pointers, then a Serge Ibaka jumper as the Thunder closed out the first quarter on an 8-0 spurt. The run continued as Kevin Durant got a put-back layup and Fisher knocked down another three. Kevin Martin got in on the action with a runner before Fisher hit another three and Durant scored on a fast break layup.
The second run came in the fourth quarter, when again the Thunder led by only three. It was 89-86 with just 4:25 remaining when Russell Westbrook stopped a Spurs rally to get himself to the free throw line and knock down both shots. After forcing a Spurs miss and two turnovers, Kevin Durant nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Thunder a 94-86 advantage with 3:14 remaining. That quick 5-0 jolt was enough to keep the Thunder’s lead safe for good.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Sefolosha slaps the ball away then Westbrook unselfishly drops it off back to him in the fast break for an easy slam. Nice pump fake by Durant to shake his man and knock down the jumper. Strong defensive board by Sefolosha to draw a foul. Solid box out by Collison to snag a defensive board. Perfect post defense by Collison to force a miss on a spin move by Splitter. Perfect back-screen by Collison to free up Fisher for a corner three pointer. Westbrook sprints across the floor on defense to intercept a pass headed to the corner. Westbrook runs all the way across the court to track down an offensive rebound and save it in bounds.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Perfect ball movement on the opening possession of the half nets the Thunder a Sefolsoha corner three pointer. Ibaka helps over on defense to protect the rim and the ball goes out off of the Spurs. Westbrook sneakily hustles back in the backcourt to make a steal off an in-bounds pass, then knocks down a three. Beautiful in-bounds play drawn up by Brooks to get Westbrook a three-pointer. Westbrook flies in to grab an offensive rebound to keep possession alive. Fisher’s quick hands cause a steal that gives the Thunder possession.
"I thought our defense was really good. I thought we kept our composure. They made a couple of runs and we stopped them with some good stops, and some good execution on the offensive end... I like the fact that we were able to just maintain and stay with what we do, and focus on what got us the lead.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks