Regular Season Recap - Thunder vs. Celtics


3 Steals for Thabo Sefolosha, part of nine total for the Thunder

5 Assists for Kendrick Perkins, a team-high, to go with six points and five rebounds

11 Rebounds for Kevin Durant to go with 23 points and four assists

19 Points for the Thunder off of 19 Celtics turnovers

23-14 Scoring differential in the Thunder’s favor in the fourth quarter

27-for-33 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, good for 81.8 percent

32 Bench points for the Thunder, including 12 by Kevin Martin, eight by Nick Collison and six each for Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher

37.7 Shooting percentage allowed by the Thunder defense tonight


March 10th, 2013

Competing against successful organizations like the Boston Celtics always provides a sense of perspective. On Sunday afternoon, not only did the Thunder grab a 91-79 win from one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, but also got a unique view of how an organization is built over years and even decades.

Playing its patented grind-it-out style, the Celtics were exactly what the Thunder expected going in, but due to a high level of focus and execution, the Thunder was able to make enough plays on both sides of the ball to get the victory. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club locked in and held the Celtics to just 37.7 percent shooting from the field while also forcing 19 turnovers. In the fourth quarter, the Thunder ratcheted up the intensity one more level and kept the Celtics to just 14 points on 25 percent shooting.

“Going into this game we knew it was going to be a physical game,” Brooks said. “The way Boston plays- they play a hard, tough, physical, defensive-minded basketball. We did a good job of matching that toughness. I thought our fourth quarter defense was as good as it can be. We made them take a lot of tough shots and they missed them.”

The way the Thunder defended resembled its opponents’ typical style, and while Boston is known for its defense, over the years it has been able to play a variety of different ways. What hasn’t changed, however, is the attitude and culture of the Celtics organization, which is nearly 70 years in the making. After arriving in Oklahoma City just five seasons ago, the Thunder has plenty of work to be done in creating its own identity.

Just like the Celtics have experienced over the decades, there will be highs and lows for the Thunder as an organization in the years to come, but it is essential that the organization continues to build a rock solid foundation in order to stay steady over time. That’s why, above all, the Thunder tries to operate through a process-based approach that holds one another to a high internal standard of doing things the right way.

That mentality is especially true off the floor, but also on it, and this afternoon it showed as the Thunder made the correct basketball play time and again, regardless of how difficult the Celtics defense made it on them. By racking up 21 assists and working together to get the best shot possible, the Thunder took advantage of the solid defense it played all day to capitalize on the offensive end.

“You don’t know who’s going to be the guy that makes the shot,” Brooks said. “All you want to do is execute the play and run it so we can get a good shot. I thought we had a lot of good shots in that fourth quarter but it always comes down to defense. We get stops, we can run in transition.”

That type of unselfishness on offense and toughness on the defensive end that the Thunder showed today is a style of play that has been built over the past five seasons in Oklahoma City, and is something the team wants to be known for not just this year, but each and every season. As the years roll by, the Thunder’s players and coaches will inevitably change, but the key will be to maintain those standards from group to group.

Operating the right way and refusing to take shortcuts in any part of the organization whatsoever will be crucial to establishing that type of play as a part of the Thunder’s culture, regardless of whether the team ultimately wins or loses. One player who understands more intimately the intriguing positions of the Thunder and the Celtics relative to one another is Thunder center Kendrick Perkins. After spending his first seven and a half seasons in Boston, Perkins came to Oklahoma City in a trade and since then has helped the Thunder build the platform of processes that future Thunder players will try to emulate.

Not only has Perkins been rock solid in the leadership department for the Thunder as it continues to carve out its role in the NBA landscape, but he has been a defensive stalwart on the floor too. That was in full effect today as he held Kevin Garnett to 10 points on 5-for-19 shooting, while also dishing out a team-high five assists and making life difficult for the Celtics all day.

“I thought Perk was really good on both ends,” Brooks said. “He was facilitating on the offense end and had five assists but his defense on (Kevin) Garnett and their pick and roll was outstanding but I thought the defensive job our guys did in the second half was as good as it can get.”

“I just tried to keep a body on him (Garnett),” Perkins explained. “I thought overall, I told the guys coming into this game, it’s going to be one of those low scoring games, one of those games that we have to grind out. That’s what we did.”

His numbers may never loom large on the stat sheet, but it’s the small things like setting screens and getting strong position early in the shot clock that make Perkins a vital piece to the Thunder’s puzzle.

In fact, Perkins’ style is a nice personification of the ever-growing strength of the Thunder organization. With its eyes on long-standing organizations like the Celtics who have had decades to settle, the Thunder strives to be about winning on the margins, doing things the right way and establishing a lasting, successful organization that can be sustained over the years. Each day at the practice facility and each game, like the one tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, are opportunities to continue that process.

Turning Point:
The Celtics chipped away at a Thunder lead and made it a 68-65 contest, with the Thunder leading, heading into the fourth quarter. Right out of the break the Thunder went on an 11-2 run that broke the game open for good. It started when Reggie Jackson drove, spun then dished to Nick Collison for a 20-foot jumper, then Jackson knocked down two free throws on the next possession. Jackson continued the run with a fast break layup that took a ton of spin on the ball to bank in. After that Jackson hit a step-back, double-pump jumper at the end of the shot clock. To cap off the run, Collison snagged an offensive rebound and found Kevin Martin on a backdoor cut which he finished with a layup, plus a foul shot. By that time it was 79-67 Thunder with 8:36 remaining, and the Celtics would never get closer than eight the rest of the way.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Sefolosha plays the pass perfectly on the win and tips a steal to himself. Perfect pocket pass from Durant to ibaka for a jumper. Perkins keeps his hands active to slap away a pass. Nice anticipation by Westbrook to stay in the passing lane and cut off the angle for a steal. Collison steps in and draws a charge defending the secondary break. Good instincts by Martin to come over and double team as the clock ran down to end the quarter. Beautiful pass by Martin on the driving dump-off to Collison.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Sefolosha hustles to snare a loose ball, which gives the Thunder an extra possession. Great rotating and defensive pressure forces Boston into a turnover. Westbrook does an excellent job of recovering to block a jump shot from behind. Perfect bounce pass from Durant to Collison for a layup. Durant does an incredible job of slapping a loose ball off Jeff Green’s leg. Wonderful box out by Collison to secure a defensive rebound.

“They want to grind it out. They want to slow the game down. They’re a veteran group, they want to get it into the post, they want to run pick and roll, and they want to take as much time as they can off the clock. We did a good job of playing alongside it. Of course we want to run and get out but I think we did a little bit of both. We can mix it up well.” – Kevin Durant