Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs. Spurs
5 Steals for Caron Butler, who also scored four points and made two rebounds and two assists
6 Assists for Russell Westbrook, in addition to 27 points and four steals
6-for-8 Shooting numbers for Reggie Jackson, who scored 14 points and added four rebounds and four assists
12 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, who also scored 11 points and blocked three shots
19 Turnovers for the Spurs, which turned into 30 points for the Thunder
28 Points for Kevin Durant, extending his streak of games with 25-or-more points to 39, one shy of Michael Jordan’s modern record
30-13 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night, where it shot 12-for-15
32-20 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the Spurs in the third quarter
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
April 3rd, 2014
The Thunder worked together to get its gears to mesh in the first half, keeping close to the San Antonio Spurs throughout the first 24 minutes. In the third quarter, everything clicked into place and the Thunder rolled.
In a 106-94 victory over the Spurs on Thursday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ Thunder squad relied on a masterful defensive effort, highlighted by a third quarter showing when it held San Antonio to just 7-for-23 shooting and four turnovers. On the night as a whole, the Thunder’s defense turned 19 Spurs turnovers into an incredible 30 points, aided by a 30-13 margin in fast break points for Brooks’ club on the night.
“We were really locked in defensively, particularly in the second half,” forward Nick Collison said. “We were taking care of problems, so that if we did get beat we had guys aware and ready behind. When you’re engaged defensively like that, you put guys in tough positions. You’re swarming around the ball and it makes decisions more difficult. It’s a result of a good consistent effort possession after possession.”
By racking up 14 steals on the night, including four from Russell Westbrook and five by Caron Butler, the Thunder was seemingly all over the floor with its activity, communication and quickness. It started on the perimeter with Westbrook, who locked up Tony Parker, holding him to just six points and three assists in 26 minutes of action. In the post, it was Kendrick Perkins, Collison, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams who held Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to just 6-for-20 shooting from the field.
“We had active hands,” Perkins explained. “We did a great job with deflections and steals. That’s part of it. Our energy level was high.”
“We were just being active, defending, playing Thunder basketball, doing what we’re supposed to do and locking up,” Westbrook said.
Perhaps the most impactful member of the defensive effort was Ibaka, whose three blocks didn’t do justice to the impact he had in the paint, consistently altering and deterring Spurs shots. The Thunder held San Antonio to just 21-for-40 shooting in the paint, and outscored San Antonio 16-6 in the pivotal third quarter when Brooks’ squad outscored the Spurs 32-20, holding the Spurs to just 3-for-9 shooting inside the paint.
“Serge was great,” forward Kevin Durant said. “He stayed with it. I think he had three blocks, but it seemed like seven or eight with the impact he had. He made guys think twice when they came into the lane.
“Perk was great in his first game back, being physical and not letting them get anything easy on the pick-and-rolls,” Durant continued. “He was there, communicating with us. Steven did a great job, and Nick as well.”
Those defensive stops led to an offensive attack that came to life after a tough first quarter. Led by Westbrook’s 27 points and six assists, the Thunder’s offensive engine hummed along to 49.4 percent shooting on the night, with 18 assists to just 13 turnovers. Durant scored 28, putting his streak at 39 consecutive games with 25-or-more points, just one shy of Michael Jordan’s career-best mark of 40.
One of the lynchpins of the Thunder’s rhythm on Thursday night, however, was Reggie Jackson, whose 14 points on an efficient 6-for-8 shooting in addition to four rebounds and four assists sparked the second unit to 35 points. Jackson’s presence in a lineup alongside Durant and Westbrook gives the Thunder a three-headed monster for opposing defenses to deal with, as each player can break his man down and get to the rim or create for others.
“It’s hard when you have three guys who can create their own shot and create for others,” Durant explained. “Once we move that basketball the way we did, drive the ball and kick to shooters, you can get layups and dump off passes, it makes it tough.”
“Reggie was Reggie tonight,” Westbrook said. “He’s aggressive, he can score the basketball and he did that tonight. He did a great job of running the second unit.”
The game changed completely in the third quarter, when the Thunder turned a one-point deficit into a nine point lead in a span of just three minutes. The Spurs led 58-57 with 7:14 remaining in the period when Kevin Durant hit a pull-up jumper, then Serge Ibaka made a steal which eventually led to two Westbrook free throws after a jump ball won by Ibaka on defense. The Thunder then forced the Spurs into missed three straight pissed shots, leading to a Westbrook jumper and an Ibaka follow-up dunk to make it 65-58 Thunder with 5:28 left.
Two Tim Duncan free throws were countered by a Durant jumper off a Westbrook assist, then Nick Collison dove on the floor and passed the ball to Durant, who returned the favpr by pitching the ball ahead to Westbrook for a dunk, making it 69-60 with 4:13 remaining. The Thunder’s 12-2 run changed the tone of the game, and the team’s lead would creep up to double-digits and never fell below eight points in the fourth quarter.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Incredible man-to-man post defense by Kendrick Perkins forces Tim Duncan into a tough, contested, missed jumper. Andre Roberson stays active, hovers around the rim and gets a tip-in. The Thunder scrambles and communicates on defense to get out to shooters. Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka fight for an offensive rebound, giving the Thunder an extra possession on offense. Nice move by Caron Butler to poke the ball out of his man’s hands to create a fast break chance. Nick Collison’s post defense forces a near-impossible shot at the end of the shot clock. Ibaka slaps out a defensive rebound to start a Thunder fast break.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Perkins sets a screen at the elbow for Ibaka, freeing up to take an uncontested jumper. Incredible trust by Westbrook to hit Roberson for a corner three-pointer in transition. Incredible closeouts and team defense by the Thunder forces a Spurs shot clock violation. Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball, leading to an incredible outlet pass by Durant. Fisher tips a ball out of a driving Spurs hand, then a great trap in the corner leads to a Jackson steal.
“We picked it up defensively in the second half with our hands and our length. We were clogging all the angels and driving opportunities they had and were closing out on shooters right at the catch.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks