NEXT GAME: Tuesday, May 7th
4 Second chance points the Thunder limited the Grizzlies to on the night
8-for-14 Shooting numbers for Kevin Martin, who had 25 points and seven rebounds
9 Lead changes in the game, in addition to 12 ties
29-18 The amount by which the Thunder out-scored the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter
35 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to six assists, two blocks and a steal
36-32 The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, where it held Memphis to 16-for36 shooting
43 Rebounds by the Thunder, two more than Memphis, which included 15 from Kevin Durant
May 5th, 2013
It might not always be pretty, but the Thunder leaves it all out on the floor on every possession.
On Sunday afternoon, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad did just that as it went out and took Game One of its second round series against the Memphis Grizzlies with a 93-91 victory. Neither team shot above 43 percent from the field in the game and it was a back-and-forth affair with nine lead changes, but thanks to a 6-1 Thunder run in the final minute and a spirited rally from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit, the Brooks’ squad got itself a big win. The defense stood out the most on both ends of the floor, and in the end the Thunder forced two late turnovers and Kevin Durant knocked home two massive jumpers.
“That’s what we pride ourselves in is defensive toughness,” Brooks said. “I though tonight, with both teams, when both teams are being serious like this you have to earn every inch of the court. I thought that was an important aspect of our 4th quarter defense. We weren’t allowing easy catches or easy dribbles. We weren’t allowing easy shots and we were getting rebounds.”
Trailing 90-87 with 43.6 seconds remaining, Durant got to the right side of the floor and hit a turn-around jumper. Seconds later Derek Fisher slapped the ball away from Mike Conley from behind, right into Durant’s waiting arms and the four-time All-Star stepped up and hit the eventual game-winning 19-foot jumper with 11.1 seconds remaining. Stout defense by Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha forced an errant pass and another Memphis turnover, sealing the victory for the Thunder behind yet another instance of Durant’s late-game scoring prowess and tight defense.
“We made a good defensive play, and they have such a great team defense, and I just wanted to get it up the floor as quick as possible and find a shot,” Durant said of his game-winner. “That was the only shot I could find, and by the grace of God it went in. So my teammates did a great job of setting me up all game, and I missed some easy ones, some chippies, and I was able to hit that one.”
The shooting touch that allowed Durant to score 21 of his game-high 35 points in the second half wasn’t quite there in the first, but thankfully Kevin Martin filled his role as a scorer and shot-maker in both periods. Durant, as a facilitator with six assists on the day, helped his efficient slasher and three-point shooter drain 8-of-14 shots en route to 25 points, while also grabbing seven rebounds. By moving off the ball on back-door cuts and on the perimeter in addition to attacking with his spin move in the lane, Martin took advantage of single coverage and buoyed the Thunder offense when others weren’t hitting shots.
“It was just moving without the ball, guys getting screens, and guys finding me,” Martin said. “We’ve got a nice little flow going right now…We’re just making an extra effort to get everyone involved.”
Without a doubt, despite their 60-combined points, the second most important aspect of Martin and Durant’s games tonight were the combined 23 rebounds the duo pulled down. Behind Durant’s game-high 15, the Thunder cleaned up on the boards, which is normally a Memphis strong suit. In fact, the Thunder only allowed Memphis to grab seven offensive rebounds for four second chance points, well below their average. It was thanks to big men Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, who solely focused on boxing out, that the Thunder’s perimeter players were able to swoop in and snag the loose rebounds.
“You have to be willing to fight,” Perkins said. “Serge impressed me the most as far as his growth. Offensively he didn’t have it going, but the way he just locked in defensively and kept Zach off the offensive glass, that was phenomenal. That’s showing maturity. He didn’t hang his head. He just stuck with what he needed to do and it was a huge key for us to get the win.”
The fact that the Thunder could not only shake adversity, but also apply the lessons from its film session and practice a mere 36 hours after its Game 6 in Houston is remarkable. Not only is it a testament to the coaching ability of Brooks and his staff, but also the focus, determination and concentration the Thunder’s players showed on every possession. By communicating with and believing in one another, the Thunder manages to get better even in the Playoffs, which in turn helps it find ways to win, together.
“When we lock into things, our guys are great at attention to detail,” Brooks said. “I like that about our group. We focus on areas where we want to be good at.”
The Thunder trailed by a score of 90-87 with 1:08 remaining, and after a timeout and a turnover, the Thunder forced a miss and Kevin Durant snagged a key defensive rebound with 43.6 seconds remaining. He immediately brought the ball down court and knocked home a fade-away jumper with 37.3 seconds remaining to make it a one-point deficit. On the ensuing Grizzlies’ possession, Derek Fisher poked the ball away from Mike Conley right into the arms of Kevin Durant, who got to the right hand side of the floor and drained a 19-footer to give the Thunder a 91-90 lead with 11.1 seconds remaining. When Memphis got the ball next, Kendrick Perkins forced a bad pass from Marc Gasol and Thabo Sefolosha pressured Conley to force a Grizzlies turnover. Two cool-as-you-like free throws from Reggie Jackson later, and the Thunder had clinched a win with a 6-1 run to close the game.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Incredible box out by Jackson on the defensive end to ensure the Thunder picked up the board. Nice pursuit by Jackson and Sefolsoha to force a tough shot, then Ibaka dives on the floor for a loose ball and saves it to Perkins. Good anticipation by Martin to keep his eyes up and hands in the passing lane to deflect a pass. Great fight on the defensive glass by Fisher to draw a foul while snagging a defensive board. Beautiful ball movement by the Thunder results in a Collison tip-in. Nice concentration by Liggins on defense to prevent a back-door cut.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Strong post defense by Perkins to keep Gasol in front of him then slap the ball away. Wonderful extra pass from Ibaka to Martin for a three after a slick pass from Jackson. Wonderful box out by Martin down low to free up a teammate for a rebound. Smart work by Durant in the closing seconds of the third quarter to get a two-for-one opportunity. Martin and Durant hustle and get on the floor to track down a loose ball. Ibaka hustles over in help defense and swats a shot.
“We’re just finding ways to win. I think we’re gelling together. You should hear our film sessions. Everybody is putting their input in… We just stuck with our defense and got it done.” – Center Kendrick Perkins