Regular Season Recap - Thunder vs. 76ers

76ERS 85

7 Rebounds for Kendrick Perkins and for Hasheem Thabeet each, giving them 14 of the Thunder’s 47 rebounds

10 Rebounds for Serge Ibaka, including six on the offensive end. Ibaka also had 15 points for another double-double

13 Steals by the Thunder, including at least one each by every player who came off the bench

18-for-32 Shooting numbers for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined, who tallied a total of 53 points

40-26 Scoring differential in the paint for the Thunder, where it shot 20-for-35 and held the Sixers to 13-for-31

40.5 Shooting percentage the Thunder defense held the Sixers to on the night

58.8 Three-point shooting percentage for the Thunder, including 8-for-8 combined by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin

63-43 Point differential in the Thunder’s favor in the second half


When it locks in on defense from the opening tip, the Thunder can force opponents to stumble out of the gates, then use that momentum to play the game on its terms.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club did exactly that on Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers in its emphatic 109-85 victory that saw the Thunder outscore the Sixers by 20 points in the second half. It was the start of the game, however, that dictated the pace and tempo of the night, as the Thunder held Philadelphia to only 42 points in the first half, which occurred as a result of physical, intense defense.

“(We were) just being aggressive,” forward Serge Ibaka said. “We bounced back. That’s how good teams do it.”

Serge Ibaka protects the rim and is developing nicely into a one-on-one post defender, but he also has stalwarts throughout the rotation to help the Thunder force missed shots and turnovers. Kendrick Perkins anchors the paint, while Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant lock down the wings. The head of the defense is Russell Westbrook, who pressured the ball and helped the Thunder swipe 13 steals on the night.

“We wanted to have some activity on the basketball,” Brooks said. “We wanted to make sure that we had some toughness on the ball. With our guys, I think they responded in a very good way of challenging themselves to not get beat off the dribble… We wanted to make sure we got back on defense and make sure we stopped the basketball.”

Throughout the night the Thunder forced difficult shots, particularly long two-pointers, that helped Brooks’ squad end up with a 40-26 advantage in points in the paint. In fact, the Sixers only hit 13 of their 31 attempts inside the paint, and were out-rebounded by seven on the evening. Defensive whiz Nick Collison always looks at how the Thunder plays as opposed to the outcome of the game, but tonight the results were positive on both fronts, especially in terms of the defensive effort.

“It was much better,” Collison said. “We were fighting over screens and contesting shots. It was great. It was exactly what we needed after the last game. We will have to do it again next time we play.”

With a sharp defensive focus, the Thunder was able to turn stops into offense for itself. Particularly early on, Russell Westbrook was aggressive as he attacked the paint and got to the rim with ease. He knocked in 10-of-17 shot attempts on his way to 27 points and five assists. His aggressiveness was able to create opportunities for others, as Kevin Durant knocked home 26 points, Kevin Martin had 16 and Serge Ibaka racked up 15.

“I told Russ in the beginning he needed to be aggressive tonight,” Ibaka said. “Everybody knows he can make pull-up shots, so I was telling him to drive the basketball. Every time when he does that, it’s successful for us.”

As for Westbrook’s own offense, things opened up even further for the All-NBA point guard once the Sixers had to respect his drive to the bucket. In fact, Westbrook hit all four of his three-point attempts thanks to sagging defense that had to account for his speed and quickness when he attacks the lane. For the night the Thunder shot a sizzling 10-for-17 from three-point land as Martin also knocked home all four of his three-point attempts.

“Being patient was key and the lane opening for me, and I just concentrated on finishing,” Westbrook said. “I got more space to shoot and had more confidence…I have just been taking my time.”

Turning Point:
To end the third quarter the Thunder went on a 16-6 run that turned the game into a double-digit affair. It stated with the Thunder up 58-55 with 5:46 remaining when Serge Ibaka made a baseline driving layup plus the foul, then a Russell Westbrook three-pointer. Kevin Durant then knocked down a 15-footer, Westbrook made a fast break layup, Kevin Martin hit a three-pointer on a cross-court pass from Durant, then Westbrook made a fast break layup to put the Thunder up 74-61 with 1:37 remaining in the quarter. Four of the Thunder’s six made baskets during the stretch were assisted, and the Thunder forced two turnovers and five missed shots during the stretch.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka battle on the glass on both ends, with Ibaka snagging an offensive rebound for a putback. Nice job of boxing out by Hasheem Thabeet to get proper position and draw a foul. Wonderful hustle by Thabeet on the offensive glass, drawing a tie-up on after a missed Thunder free throw. Durant brilliantly throws the ball off an opponent to retain possession as he was falling out of bounds. Ibaka hustles back in transition to slap away an alley-oop attempt.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Nice pump fake from Perkins to get his man into the air, then he knocks down the jumper. Wonderful drive and dish by Durant to Sefolosha for a three pointer. Beautiful push ahead bounce pass by Ibaka to Westbrook to get him into transition. Incredible screening by Collison and great vision by Durant to hit Martin on a cross-court pass for a corner three. Nice patience by Jackson to pull back in transition and flip the ball back to Martin for a three.

“I like the way we started the game, defensively. We held them 21 points, and not a good shooting percentage throughout the game, but I thought the defense, we were good for four quarters, and that was important to us going into this game. We wanted to establish that mindset from the start.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks