THUNDER 99
WIZARDS 101
4:50 Playing time for DeAndre Liggins, who provided the Thunder with a defensive spark

8 Steals for the Thunder on the night, including three each for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

11 Lead changes in the game, which also featured five ties

11 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins on the night, a season-high

16 Assists for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined tonight

26 Points for Serge Ibaka on the night, a career-high

29 Points for Kevin Durant on 9-for-19 shooting

33-21 Point differential in the Thunder’s favor during the second quarter



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
The Thunder fought and clawed its way back into the game, but in the end, the Washington Wizards had the last chance with the ball, and made one more play than the Thunder did to win the game.

In the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, the Thunder rallied back from a ten point deficit in the first quarter, then another ten point deficit mid-way through the fourth quarter. Despite shots not falling throughout most of the second half, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club relentlessly attacked the basket and got to the free throw line to keep the scoreboard moving. Ultimately its efforts just weren’t quite enough to get the win, as it fell 101-99 to the Wizards.

“They deserved to win the game,” Brooks said. “They played better than us and one of the things I tell our guys, there are 29 teams that want to win just as badly as we want to win. We didn’t play well enough tonight to win the game. They deserved it.”

Trailing by five with 1:43 remaining, the Thunder refused to give in, getting two buckets and forcing two missed shots in the final two minutes. A two-point jumper as a part of a career-high 26 points from Serge Ibaka and a deep three-pointer by Kevin Durant helped the Thunder tie it up with 13.8 seconds remaining. The three-pointer by Durant earned a massive cheer from many of the DC-born Durant’s family and friends in attendance, and nearly put the game into overtime.

“Kevin makes big plays for us on both ends of the floor,” Brooks said. “Offensively he’s always been a big shot maker. He can make those shots. He doesn’t need a lot of space, he doesn’t need a lot of time. We had opportunities to get a big stop. We couldn’t get it.”

The Thunder actually forced a missed shot on the ensuing Wizards possession, but a long rebound unluckily caromed off the Thunder and out of bounds, giving the Wizards one last chance. Bradley Beal pump faked and hit a one-handed 16-footer in the lane with 0.3 seconds remaining, putting an end to the Thunder’s quest for a comeback. Instead of over-analyzing the final defensive play, the Thunder was more focused on its overall defensive work on the night, which started by allowing 30 points in the first quarter.

“We gave up 30,” Brooks said. “That put us in the wrong mindset. We win by defense, we score by our defense. We do everything by our defense. We talk about it, we build our habits by our defense and we weren’t good enough defensively tonight.”

As always, that defense-first mindset is what team leaders like Durant, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins try to establish on this Thunder team night-in and night-out. It’s about the full 48 minutes that Brooks’ club puts together and how the club played in relation to its own standards as opposed to the outcome.

“We want to be a team that is worried about how we’re playing and where we’re trying to go,” Collison said.

That process-based approach is one the Thunder can rely upon to keep it level and even-keeled throughout the season. After all, Brooks’ squad has to come back to Oklahoma City to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, and that game is now the team’s sole focus. By playing one game at a time and not lingering too long on the good or the bad, the Thunder moves forward.

“I’m disappointed that we lost this game, but we’re still going to move onto the next game and do our best the next game,” Brooks said.

Turning Point:
The Thunder led by one at 73-72 with 37.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter when the Wizards went on a 14-3 run to take its second ten point lead of the evening. The Thunder eventually clawed all the way back to tie the game, but the second big run by the Wizards at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter was enough to keep the Thunder at bay. It started with a four-point play on a made three-pointer by Bradley Beal, the Wizards hit two shots in the lane, then Kevin Seraphin made two shots in the lane to make it 86-76 with 7:50 remaining.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Beautiful ball movement as Serge Ibaka takes a pass in the paint, sees the defense come then turns and fires to Thabo Sefolosha for a three-pointer. Incredible lefty pass from Westbrook and he glided through the lane and hit Ibaka for a jumper. Great speed by Collison, Westbrook and Martin to make a quick outlet pass, a sharp push ahead pass and then Martin to sprint away for the dunk. Wonderful anticipation by Durant to jump in front for a steal. Incredible job by Ibaka to slip a down screen and by Westbrook to hit him for an easy dunk.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Wonderful anticipation and hustle from Westbrook to jump into the backcourt to steal the outlet pass, then hit a layup. DeAndre Liggins steps in, gets his feet set and draws a charge. Nick Collison hustles to track down a loose ball. Quick cut into the lane by Liggins to get a pass from Westbrook and draw a foul. Reggie Jackson and Liggins stunt correctly in the lane on defense and force a turnover. Westbrook hustles and snags an offensive rebound.



“We just have to play better. That’s one thing about this league, there are good players in this league… There’s nothing we can say other than we have to go out the next night and play much better.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
!doctype>