Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs. Bucks
5 Players who scored in double figures for the Thunder, thanks to 24 assists
7-for-15 Three-point shooting numbers for Jeremy Lamb, Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha combined as the trio scored 41 points
10 Points allowed in the first quarter by the Thunder, an opponent low in the Thunder era
17 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka in addition to 17 points and three blocks
33 Points for Kevin Durant on the night, in addition to 10 rebounds and seven assists
39-27 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the Bucks in the third quarter
42-26 Advantage in points in the paint for the Thunder on the night
58-40 The Thunder’s rebounding advantage on the night, as it scored 27 second chance points
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
Dec. 11th, 2013
The Thunder hadn’t played quite up to its standards on the defensive end in its last two outings, but with both mental and physical toughness, it responded exactly the way it wanted.
With a 101-85 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Thunder took care of business the best way it knows how, with stifling defense that put the Bucks in a bind for all 24 seconds of the shot clock. By forcing Milwaukee to miss its first ten shots and score a Thunder-opponent-low 10 points in the first quarter, its defense set the tone.
On the night, the Thunder held the Bucks to just 39.5 percent shooting and out-rebounding them 58-40, the Thunder took away the paint from the Bucks, imposing its will down low thanks to defensive leaders Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.
“Our defensive intensity was good all across the board,” Perkins said. “We didn’t let our offense effect what we did defensively. We just have to keep with the mindset that we’re a defensive team first. Guys did a good job of just focusing on their job on the defensive end.”
“We did a great job of locking in overall,” Perkins said. “Guys came in and gave us some great minutes and showed great toughness.”
Alongside Perkins, Ibaka made perhaps the most indelible mark on the game, as he racked up another massive rebounding night against the Bucks. After setting his career-high with 20 in a win at Milwaukee in November, Ibaka followed it up with 17 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, in addition to 17 points and three blocks. It wasn’t just the statistics, however, it was the heart, energy and effort that Ibaka displayed that changed the game and spurred on his teammates.
“It’s good to have him active and protecting the rim and rebounding our misses,” forward Kevin Durant said. “There were a lot of them tonight between both teams. He did a great job cleaning up for us and also on the offensive end just being aggressive.”
“It was very important for us and myself to be aggressive,” Ibaka explained.
Ibaka wasn’t the only one whose toughness was inspiring tonight. Leading the Thunder with a stellar all-around performance was Kevin Durant, who managed the game in all facets to the tune of 33-points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Durant was shooting just 1-for-9 when he took a hard fall mid-way through the second quarter, but after a timeout was back out on the court and on fire. Durant finished the rest of the game 7-for-9 from the field, proving his physical toughness, and pushing his teammates to exude theirs as well.
A teammate who did exactly that was Jeremy Lamb, but rather than physical, it was mental. After two tough shooting nights on the road, Lamb bounced back to go 6-for-10 for 17 points tonight, including eight straight in the Thunder’s critical third-quarter run that broke the game open. For a second-year player, Lamb showed resolve that impressed his head coach, Scott Brooks.
“I love what Jeremy did tonight,” Brooks said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well last game. He wanted to come back better like all of our guys do, and he bounced back. He showed a lot of toughness. These are steps that he has taken this year that he has to continue to take.”
“We’re seeing his growth right in front of our eyes and our guys are enjoying it because he’s likable,” Brooks continued. “He wants to make the right play. He’s not looking for shots, he’s looking for plays.”
The resiliency that Lamb embodied tonight existed within the entire team as well. Despite a poor shooting first quarter, when the Thunder shot just 4-for-20, Brooks’ club problem-solved together as a unit, progressively getting better on the offensive end throughout the night. In fact, in the second half the Thunder had 17 assists to just six turnovers, as five different players, including Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha, scored in double figures. The Bucks tried to throw a zone defense and a full-court trap at the Thunder, but by using its collective knowledge and basketball IQ, the Thunder figured it all out on the fly.
“We have a smart group,” Durant explained. “We have some veterans mixed in with some young guys that are smart and wise beyond their years. We know how to adjust. Guys know how to play the game of basketball. We’ve seen so many different defenses.”
The Thunder trailed by two at 54-52 with 5:26 left in the third quarter when it found an offensive groove and took control of the game with a 27-8 run. The steady burn to complete the third quarter started with a Serge Ibaka dunk off a Kevin Durant dish, then after a Kevin Durant free throw, Jeremy Lamb knocked home eight straight points coming on two three-pointers and a layup to make it 63-56 Thunder with 3:46 remaining.
After a Bucks bucket, Durant found Ibaka for another dunk before the Thunder’s perennial All-Pro called his own number for a layup. Two Durant free throws and a Nick Collison fast break layup pushed the Thunder’s lead to ten at 71-61 before Thabo Sefolosha drained a three-pointer and Durant followed it up by draining all three of his free throw attempts after he was fouled from behind the arc. Coming out of the quarter break Lamb made a finger roll to make it 79-62 Thunder with 11:38 remaining and the Bucks never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Beautiful lob pass by Kevin Durant to Serge Ibaka just over the out-stretched arms of the defense for a dunk. Ibaka hustles to save a ball back in-bounds and start a transition opportunity for the Thunder. Thabo Sefolosha slaps the ball away from his man’s hands from behind, forcing a turnover that leads to his own run out. Ibaka’s individual on-ball defense single-handedly forces Milwaukee into a shot-clock violation. Nick Collison battles down low on the offensive end to draw a foul while rebounding.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Excellent ball movement from Reggie Jackson to Sefolosha gets Ibaka a wide open corner three-pointer. Ibaka battles down low to wrestle away an offensive rebound and give the Thunder an extra possession. Slick no-look bounce pass by Sefolosha to a cutting Jeremy lamb for a transition layup. Nice anticipation by Derek Fisher to jump a passing lane and prevent a swing pass along the wing. Collison slides over in help defense to draw a charge. Sefolosha plays incredibly hard in transition defense to slap the ball away and disrupt a Bucks possession.
“We just continued to trust each other by playing defense, getting out in transition, passing the ball and getting good shots.” - guard Jeremy Lamb