THUNDER 102
SUNS 90
3 Assists for Reggie Jackson on the night, one of eight Thunder players with an assist

9 Steals by the Thunder, including three by Kevin Martin

13 Rebounds by Kendrick Perkins, setting a new season-high

+17 Point differential in the Thunder’s favor in the second and fourth quarters combined

23-10 Advantage in points off turnovers in the Thunder’s favor, who also led 14-6 in fast break points

36 Points for Russell Westbrook, a season-high, on 14-for-24 shooting in addition to eight rebounds and five assists

41 Points for Kevin Durant on a season-high 30 shot attempts, including 19 in the fourth quarter

41.7 Shooting percentage the Thunder’s defense held the Suns to on the night

48-34 Points in the paint edge for the Thunder, who shot 24-for-40 and held the suns to 17-for-39 shooting in the paint



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
In crunch time, the Thunder hangs its hat on what it can rely upon the most – its defense.

Each possession is critical during the course of the game, and on every one, the Thunder locks in and tries to force its opponent into the toughest offensive possession possible. When the Phoenix Suns made a push, the Thunder’s defense, led by Kendrick Perkins and his season-high 13 rebounds shut them down. By using a 15-4 run midway through the fourth quarter and a staunch defensive effort that held the Suns to 33 percent shooting in the final period, the Thunder left Phoenix with a 102-90 victory.

“It's not a secret,” Perkins said. “We're a defensive team first and we're going to keep building on that. Our goal is, every game, we have to keep the team under 40 percent. We're just trying to start of the defensive end. We know we're going to score points. We just have to keep our 'D' up.”

Monday night’s victory was the culmination of a difficult but impressive three-game road trip for the Thunder that also featured wins in Los Angeles against the Lakers and in Portland against the Trail Blazers. On the night the Thunder held the Suns to 41.7 percent shooting while making nine steals, and eight different players made an assist. It took contributions from every member of Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club that saw action, from team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all the way down the line to players like DeAndre Liggins and Perry Jones.

“I thought this road trip everybody stepped up,” Brooks said. “That’s why we’re a good team. We have guys that step up, guys that believe in each other. It doesn’t matter who you throw out there, we have schemes that we do defensively, we have sets that we run offensively, but the bottom line is that we have to play as a team, play together and play unselfishly and that’s what this team does well.”

“It just tells us that we have guys that work hard and coaches that really do a good job of developing our players,” Brooks continued. “Our medical staff always has our guys in great shape regardless if they play minutes or not. We take a lot of pride in what we do as an organization and I really thought it showed this road trip.”

From Hasheem Thabeet, who played 22 minutes and scored five points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots, to Liggins to Kevin Martin who chipped in 12 points, the Thunder got a positive impact from each player throughout the night in Phoenix. After falling behind to Phoenix early, Thabeet, Liggins, Jones and Reggie Jackson all came in and helped the Thunder end the first quarter on a positive note, which extended into the second quarter as the Thunder built a six point halftime lead.

Team leaders Durant and Westbrook carried the scoring burden, but it was the little things like boxing out, setting screens and making defensive stops by the entire team that led to victory. What was most impressive both Monday and over the past two nights was that the Thunder won despite not having Serge Ibaka, and with Thabo Sefolosha coming back from a sore neck. As a result, players like Liggins and Jones who aren’t a part of the normal rotation came in and delivered when needed.

“We have enough guys in this locker room that can come in and be ready to play,” Westbrook said. “I think our coaching staff and our organization does a great job of developing guys and making sure they’re ready.”

As for the Thunder’s dynamic scoring duo, who scored 47 of the Thunder’s 51 halftime points and combined for 77 total points on the night, it was a night of efficient offensive shot-making. Durant scored 41 points, including 19 crucial ones in the fourth quarter, while Westbrook scored a season-high 36 points on 14-for-24 shooting. In addition, Westbrook had eight rebounds and five assists, while the duo combined to turn the ball over only one time.

“You don’t see that often, two guys just take over the game offensively in that second half,” Brooks said. “You can’t say anything other than just make sure you set good screens and make sure you execute and run the plays… We have a couple of sets that we run where we look for opportunities to get quick baskets. They ran it to perfection.”

By getting extra possessions on critical offensive rebounds by Martin and Thabeet, Durant knocked down timely three-pointers, as he and Westbrook scored 28 of the Thunder’s 30 fourth quarter points. The win brought the Thunder to 30-8 on the season as the team returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena for one game against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. After that, however, the Thunder has to hit the road for its longest trip away from Oklahoma City on the year, a six-game west coast swing featuring games against the Mavericks, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors, Kings and Lakers.

“We did a good job of taking care of the road for now,” Westbrook said. “I think we did a great job defensively and it helped us to the win… We’re just taking it one day at a time. The same thing we’ve been preaching since day one and I think we’ve been doing a good job of it.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder led only 82-77 with 6:42 remaining in this one, but went on a 15-4 run over the next four minutes to change the attitude of the game completely. It started with two Russell Westbrook free throws, three straight defensive stops by the Thunder, then Westbrook hit a three-pointer. After that, Kevin Durant scored 10 straight points on a three pointer, a jumper, a layup and then an and-one layup. By the time the scoring barrage was over, the Thunder led 97-81 with 2:23 remaining.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Nice job of Nick Collison and Russell Westbrook to switch back after a screen and roll, which turns into Collison forcing Luis Scola to travel. Good anticipation by Thabo Sefolosha to see Westbrook’s drive to the rim and follow it up for a tip-in. Great hustle play in transition defense by the Thunder to slap away the ball and get a steal. Major concentration on the part of Hasheem Thabeet to catch a tipped pass and make a layup.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Unselfish play by Westbrook on the run out to drop the ball off for Durant for an easy slam dunk. Wonderful job by Perkins to hedge out and trap the man in the corner then recover to his own man. Sweet two-man pick-and-pop play between Sefolosha and Collison as the former hit the latter for a jumper off a bounce pass. Beautiful back-door pass on a timing play from Perkins to Westbrook for a layup plus the foul. Perfect box out by Liggins to draw a foul on a defensive rebound. Incredible hustle by Thabeet to slap the ball off the backboard to himself to get an offensive rebound and an extra possession.



“I just told the guys, we have to find the energy. We have enough guys in the locker room that we have to somehow find it. And they did. I thought the defense really gave us a chance to score in that second half. Kevin (Durant) and Russell (Westbrook) were obviously very good offensively, but a lot of guys helped them score those points.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
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