Thunder Takes Series
7-for-13 Shooting numbers for Kevin Martin who scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half
8 Assists for Reggie Jackson to go with 17 points and seven rebounds
9 Rebounds by Nick Collison in addition to 10 points in 22 minutes of play
23-11 The Thunder’s advantage in points off turnovers leading to a 16-11 fast break points advantage
27 Points by Durant in addition to eight points and six assists
40-24 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder on the night
46-11 The Thunder’s edge in bench points, including 11 from Derek Fisher
May 3rd, 2013
HOUSTON – In the huddle, Derek Fisher’s eyes were fixated to a spot on the floor as he listened intently to Head Coach Scott Brooks and concentrated solely on what he must do.
The long-time NBA veteran’s focus and intensity personified the Thunder’s ability as a team to stay in the moment and not be fazed by the adversity it has seen in this first round Playoff series against the Houston Rockets. On Friday night the Thunder closed out the series 4-2 and advanced to the second round to face the Memphis Grizzlies by beating the Rockets on the road 103-94. During the game the Thunder kept its composure and between games it maintained poise in order to take each moment in stride. Leaders like Fisher and Kevin Durant help the team have a positive mindset each night.
“I loved our energy from the moment we got on the plane yesterday,” Durant said. “I could tell there was something good about us… We just stayed together.”
The Thunder trailed by as many as 11 in this game and in the Toyota Center in Houston, the Rockets had an opportunity to force a Game 7 back in Oklahoma City. Led by two separate 12-2 runs in the third and fourth quarters, the Thunder eliminated a 10-point deficit and built an 11-point lead of its own, which would eventually balloon to as many as 15. By forcing Houston to shoot 32 percent and turn the ball over four times in the fourth quarter, Brooks’ squad played a stifling brand of defense to get the win.
“Every pass was contested, every shot was contested and every catch was felt by our guys,” Brooks said. “Our guys got into them… You knew you were being guarded by one of our players and that’s what we do. That’s how we play.”
It was a locked in defensive effort for the Thunder tonight, who saw each man step up and make an impact. With nine steals the Thunder was able to create 23 points off 16 Rockets turnovers, and led by big men Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, the squad out-scored the Rockets 40-24 in the paint. Despite a hot shooting night from the three-point line for Houston, the Thunder made the Rockets work for every basket that it got, eventually holding its opponents to just 41.1 percent shooting on the evening.
“We didn’t let them get anything easy,” Collison said. “We finally got back and really guarded them for a longer stretch. I think that was the thing, consistently, every possession doing it.”
Brooks called the performance by Fisher “inspiring” and it was clear that both his defense on James Harden but also his court instincts and ability to knock down shots were huge for the team. Collison’s 10-point, nine-rebound output in 22 minutes of playing time as every box out he made was crucial. Perhaps the most important performer tonight, however, was Kevin Martin. The scorer off the bench racked up 21 of his 25 points in the first half as he played with aggression and shot the ball with pin-point accuracy. Just like the rest of his teammates, who he was quick to praise, Martin played his role almost perfectly.
“On both sides of the court, Serge played great,” Martin said. “Nick played great. D-Fish was huge. Reggie, everybody played their role to the best of their ability.”
Another player who stood and delivered tonight was second-year point guard Reggie Jackson. While ensuring that Durant, who finished with 27 points, got the ball in the spots he likes it, Jackson also put together a near triple-double. With 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Jackson was a force on the court and played with tempo, rhythm and steadiness that he attributed to Fisher’s guidance. As the Thunder closed out its series clinching win, it was clear that from Durant-to-Jackson-to-Fisher, every man on the roster was key to success.
“It just felt good to get the win,” Jackson said. “Everybody here is a solid player. Everybody brings tremendous energy. They know what they do and bring to the team. We have a good vibe for each other.”
The understanding that every player, coach and staff member impacts winning in some way is part of the reason why the Thunder plays operates with such togetherness. That was never more noticeable than tonight and throughout this series when the team weathered the Rockets’ rallies and adversity by believing in one another and playing confidently. That type of consistent and steady approach will be necessary in the second round, too.
“We were happy with how we played,” Collison said. “The best thing that we did is just stayed locked in and played every possession. Regardless of what happened on one end, we didn’t flinch.”
There were two turning points in this one, both in the second half and both 12-2 runs. The first happened with 5:48 left in the third quarter as the Thunder trailed 72-62 but got five straight points from Reggie Jackson and a Serge Ibaka jump shot to pull within five. After a stop on the defensive end, Kevin Durant and drained a three-pointer and then tipped in a Jackson miss in transition to make it 74-74 with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. That 12-2 burst got the Thunder back into it.
A few minutes later, with an 80-71 lead at the 11:11 mark in the fourth quarter, the Thunder made another quick run to break the game open for good. Kevin Martin made a jumper, then Derek Fisher came off a screen to knock down an 18-foot jump shot. Sensing the moment, Durant stepped to the top of the key and knocked in a three-pointer, which was followed up by a Durant drive and dish to Fisher for a corner three. A Nick Collison layup later and the Thunder had again put together its second 12-2 run to build a 92-81 lead with 8:12 remaining. The Rockets would never get closer than eight again.
“We made some really big plays,” Durant said. “Some game changing plays in the fourth, on the defensive end… I think everyone chipped in on the defensive end and everyone was positive. We were getting everyone locked in and focused and it was great to see. You could see us growing up as the game went along. I’m proud of the guys.”
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Sefolosha’s activity and length on the defensive end creates two fast break opportunities for the Thunder early. Nice screen by Ibaka on a side pick-and-roll to free up Martin for a jumper. Good awareness by Fisher to jump the passing lane and knock the ball out of bounds. Great job of team rebounding by the Thunder to snag a defensive board. Perfect lock-down perimeter defense by Fisher and Liggins to force a shot clock violation. Wonderful play by Liggins to slap a ball off of Parsons feet.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
“I think that was one of our best Thunder team wins that we’ve had all season. I thought the guys really laid everything on the line and that’s what Playoff basketball is all about. That’s what team basketball is all about. I liked the guys’ commitment to helping each other out.”
“I think that was one of our best Thunder team wins that we’ve had all season. I thought the guys really laid everything on the line and that’s what Playoff basketball is all about. That’s what team basketball is all about. I liked the guys’ commitment to helping each other out.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks