8-for-9 Shooting numbers for Kendrick Perkins, who scored a season-high 17 points

13 Players who played for the Thunder, all of whom made a field goal

18 Points for Thabo Sefolosha, a season-high, on 4-for-6 three-point shooting

29 Points for the Thunder off 17 Suns turnovers. Also the number of assists for the Thunder

30-12 Fast break points differential in the Thunder’s favor

57.5 Shooting percentage for the Thunder, including 14-for-21 shooting from three-point range

62-42 Differential in points in the paint for the Thunder, in addition to an 18-11 advantage in second chance points

72 Points in the second half, the most points for the Thunder in any half this season

Feb. 6th, 2013

The energy in Chesapeake Energy Arena is always high, but there’s a special feeling in the building when the Thunder goes on one of its patented runs when it turns defense into offense.

On Friday night against the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder used a 21-0 burst in the third quarter to break open what was a close game into a 127-96 victory to conclude a three-game, three-win home stand. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad led by only five at halftime, but thanks to solid defense that forced the Suns into mistakes, the Thunder capitalized. Russell Westbrook led the way with two of the Thunder’s ten steals, and also registered one of the Thunder’s 11 blocks.

“We were just more aggressive,” Westbrook said. “I think our crowd has a lot to do with it. I think as a team we’re getting better. When teams get closer to the All-Star Break they tend to relax. I think we just want to pick it up.”

The defensive performance that held the Suns to only five points through the first eight minutes of the third quarter was made possible because of five principled, disciplined Thunder players communicating throughout each possession. Once the Thunder had allayed the Suns primary and secondary offensive sets, Phoenix was forced to try to create with only a few seconds remaining on the shot clock – resulting in either a turnover or a bad shot. As a result, the Thunder was able to turn 17 Suns turnovers into 29 points, while also scoring 30 fast break points.

“When our base defense is good, that’s when we can force turnovers,” forward Nick Collison said. “When they can’t get good shots and they have to make individual plays, that’s when you get turnovers. When we’re really solid and we have a tight paint and there’s no room for anything, that’s when we can get out and get aggressive.”

Those transition opportunities were a major factor in the Thunder’s 72-point second half and 127-point game, with both figures representing season-highs. Brooks’ squad also executed in the half-court, however, allowing all 13 players to score, including five players who scored 16-or-more points. Westbrook and Durant combined for 38 points as the Thunder got 18 points, a season-high, from Thabo Sefolosha and 16 from Kevin Martin as the duo combined to shoot 7-for-11 from three-point range.

“We have two very dynamic scorers,” Brooks said, referencing Durant and Westbrook. “There are going to be nights when it’s one of them but we have guys that are capable of making shots. I like the passing. Thabo has been making shots all year at the three point line. When he shoots it, we all feel comfortable.”

The other man who jumped into the action on offense was Kendrick Perkins, who joined Sefolosha with a season-high 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Not only did Perkins finish around the rim after dump-off passes from teammates, he confidently stepped in and knocked down elbow jumpers as well. The big scoring night was combined with nine rebounds, plus a defensive effort that held the Suns’ Marcin Gortat to only two points and five rebounds.

“He anchors our defense and he takes pride in it,” Brooks said. “He’s one of our emotional leaders. Defensively he usually guards the best post player on their team but he’s been making his shots.”

Perkins will always take pride in his role as the heart and soul of the Thunder’s defense, but over the past month he’s been playing at a consistently high level on both ends of the floor. Whether it’s playing physically in the post to turn short hook shots into mid-range jumpers or knocking down his open opportunities on the offensive end, Perkins has been a major component of the Thunder’s overall success this year.

“I’m just going to keep working,” Perkins said. “Guys are doubling Kevin and Russ now, so I’m just trying to find the open spot. I’ve been watching a lot of film and going into the gym and working on my game.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder went on a 21-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter that blew open the game. It was 60-55 Thunder with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter when Kendrick Perkins hit a jumper, Serge Ibaka made two free throws, Thabo Sefolsoha hit a three pointer, Ibaka hit a jumper and Westbrook scored on a fast break dunk to make it 72-55 with 5:49 left in the quarter. After that, Kevin Durant made two free throws, Ibaka hit a corner three pointer, Perkins dunked his own miss and Westbrook scored a fast break layup. In the meantime, the Thunder forced the Suns into five turnovers and eight missed shots.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Durant and Westbrook communicate on a switch under the basket, helping one another get into position to get a stop. Wonderful patience and precision by Ibaka to pass out of the post to a wide open Sefolosha for three. Strong box out by Perkins to get a defensive rebound between multiple men. Beautiful bounce pass by Durant to slip a pass to Perkins to draw a foul. Perkins runs the floor and uses great hustle to get to the front of the rim for a put-back.

Plays the box score won't show:
Strong Thunder defense causes a Suns over-and-back violation. Incredible push dribble by Durant to split a double team, then he collected himself and kicked it out to the corner. Really smart by Perkins to crowd the ball handler and force him into a late drive, which led to a fast break jam. Thunder stays in front on defense and forces the Suns into a shot clock violation. Sefoosha hustles back in transition defense to block a sure layup off of a Suns player.

“It was just one of those nights where everybody was making shots and we weren’t turning the ball over, so that was a good offensive game for us.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks