Playoffs Recap: Thunder at Rockets Game 4

4-for-5 Three-point shooting numbers for Derek Fisher, who scored 12 points on the night

5 Rebounds for DeAndre Liggins in 14 minutes of playing time

9 Steals for the Thunder on the night as it forced Houston into 22 turnovers

12-for-16 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who finished with 38 points, eight rebounds and six assists

13 The largest lead for either side in the game, which both teams achieved

14 Points allowed by the Thunder in the fourth quarter

22-for-25 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 13-for-15 by Kevin Durant

34 Combined points for Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson, who also tallied seven rebounds, five assists and four steals between them

April 29th, 2013


HOUSTON – One of the hardest things to do in the NBA is close out an opponent on the road for a Playoff sweep.

On Monday night the Thunder learned that as it fell 105-103 to the Houston Rockets in a high intensity affair that saw high points for both sides and a huge scoring swing in the middle quarters. The Rockets started off Game 4 with a strong 13-4 burst, but the Thunder countered with a 12-3 run to tie it up. After battling back and forth, the Thunder built a 13-point lead in the second quarter before a massive 45-19 stretch in Houston’s favor spanning the second and third quarters.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club again chipped away at Houston’s lead, closing to within two points on two separate occasions in the final five minutes. Down two with the ball and 12 seconds on the clock, Reggie Jackson missed a floater through contact and Serge Ibaka’s tip-in came up just short, denying the Thunder a chance at overtime and forcing a Game 5 as it leads the series 3-1.

“They have a lot of pride,” Brooks said of the Rockets. “Nobody wants to lose 4-0. I thought we handled that initial part of the game and we came out and took the lead. They did a good job in that third quarter. We’re going to focus on Game 5 and practice tomorrow.”

The Rockets’ third quarter explosion for 38 points was matched by a thunder defensive effort that held Houston to just 14 points in the fourth quarter. Just one more bucket and the Thunder could have been looking at overtime. Led by Kevin Durant, who had 38 points on 12-for-16 shooting in addition to eight rebounds and six assists, the Thunder put itself in position to potentially win the game, but fell just short. The team played with composure and togetherness, and Durant was the ringleader of it all as he made plays for himself and others.

“We have to keep passing the ball and trusting each other,” Durant said. “I felt good, I was able to make some shots tonight and get to the free throw line. I felt I could get to the lane so I was just trying to make plays.”

Whether it was diving into the second row to save a ball in bounds and start a fast break or drawing multiple defenders then kicking out to an open shooter like Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin or Jackson – who combined for 46 points – Durant was a force on offense. On the other end of the floor the Thunder did some things well, like force 22 turnovers and make nine steals, but allowed too many points in the third quarter and a number of drives into the lane.

“We have to play a little more consistently defensively,” Brooks said. “We had opportunities to lock in defensively. We have moments throughout games that we take pride in. They did a good job of breaking us down. Those are things that we can correct and we have to correct going into the next game.”

As it does after a win or a loss, the Thunder will immediately turn the page and focus in on trying to close out the series in Game 5 on Wednesday night back at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Using practice tomorrow and looking at film will tell Brooks and company where it must make adjustments and which situations it might be able to capitalize upon moving forward. Most of all, the team will put this close loss behind them and look forward to its next opportunity to advance.

“We just have to be ready for Game 5,” Durant said. “You can’t bring it back, so let it go… We have a game at home and we’ll try to close it out.”

Turning Point:
There was a stretch in this one where the Thunder was outscored 45-19 over an 11-minute span and that flipped the game completely. The Thunder led 58-45 with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter, but behind dead-eye shooting from long range by the Rockets and turnovers by the Thunder, Houston made a big push spanning halftime to eventually take a 90-77 lead. Those 13-point advantages by both teams on opposite ends of the run were the largest lead either team held all night.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Smart by the Thunder to imeediately go to Ibaka on the block in a post-up. Ibaka then swats a defensive rebound out to a teammate. Incredible job of defensive positioning and patience by Liggins to stay on his man in the post and not bite on pump fakes. Strong box out by Fisher to allow a teammate to secure a defensive rebound. Great 24 seconds worth of a defense by the Thunder to get a nice stop. Nice anticipation by Martin along the baseline to cut off a backdoor pass. Durant jumps the passing lane then dives to save the ball in bounds.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Great job by Martin to move his feet and stay in front to draw a charge. Liggins fights and battles for a defensive rebound and draws a jump ball. Collison positions Liggins on the jump ball then Durant hustles in transition to tip in a loose ball. Strong box out by Collison to grab a defensive board. Jackson and Liggins dive on the floor for a loose ball and come up with it. Martin hustles to knock the ball out from behind and stop a transition opportunity.

“We’ll be alright. We’re up 3-1. We have a good opportunity to try and close it out at home – Forward Kevin Durant