Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Clippers
3 Number of players who had eight or more rebounds tonight (Durant, Perkins and Ibaka)
12 Number of players who scored tonight for the Thunder
21-for-22 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night
23 Points the Thunder scored off of 13 turnovers that it forced
32 Points for Kevin Durant on the night, a game-high
44-to-22 The points in the paint advantage for the Thunder, who shot 22-for-37 in the paint and held the Clippers to 11-for-30 in the paint
49-to-31 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder, which also included 14 offensive rebounds
53.8 Shooting percentage for the Thunder on the night
The Thunder continue its homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. Game time is 7:00 pm Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.
The Thunder then hosts the Miami Heat on Sunday before heading on the road to take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
The Thunder wanted to set the tone early on in its 114-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night that there would be no easy baskets and that the painted area and backboards were theirs. Well thanks to a plus-18 rebounding advantage and a plus-22 points in the paint advantage, Head Coach Scott Brooks' club certainly stepped up and let that tone ring out for the entire game. In what Brooks called one of the best 48 minutes of basketball the Thunder has played all season, it was the dominance in the trenches that stood out the most.
"Our game plan with every team we've played is to contest shots, put a body on every guy, and rebound the basketball," Brooks said. "I thought tonight we had many possessions of that. That's simple basketball. You defend the ball, you defend the shot, you block out and then you rebound the ball and you run in transition. We did that throughout the night. We always want to stop guys from getting into the paint. We have bigs that really did a good job of cleaning-up and protecting the paint when we do get beat, but tonight was good."
While guard Russell Westbrook's on-ball defense of Chris Paul was spectacular, holding the All-Star to a 3-for-12 shooting night, and the shooting barrage by forward Kevin Durant was certainly nice, the Thunder couldn't have come away with the win without the interior toughness that was pervasive throughout the game. Durant finished with 32 points, including 11-for-11 shooting from the free throw line, but he was also part of the front line crew that forced Blake Griffin into only 3-for-11 shooting and limited DeAndre Jordan to only six shots, including only one dunk. Nazr Mohammed, Cole Aldrich and Kendrick Perkins all got their chances down low, but the big veteran said that Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison really earned it in the paint.
“First of all you have to give credit to Serge and Nick," Mohammed said. "They played some unbelievable defense tonight. They were physical and challenged every shot and they played great on pick and rolls and we just tried to follow their lead throughout the game.”
Ibaka had three blocked shots and eight rebounds on the night while also dazzling on the offensive end, making five offensive rebounds on his way to 15 points. Collison finished four points and five rebounds, but the stand-up, straight-armed defense that he played on Griffin was a sight to behold, as the Clippers bigs were forced to take tough, contested shots all night. Even when those contested shots were falling, like the 7-of-9 three-pointers the Clippers hit to start the game, the Thunder used mental toughness to move onto the next play and take it right back at its opponents.
"We just came out and we just played hard," Perkins said. "We rebounded at all positions and played together and just protected the paint and played physical. Before the game, coach told us they were more physical the last time we played them. So I thought we came out and did what we needed to do to get the win. We played physical."
FISHER FITTING IN:
Derek Fisher had a whirlwind day on his first official game as a member of the Thunder. He joined the team officially at 5:16pm Central time when the Thunder announced the signing, and spoke with the media shortly afterward. Fisher then had less than two hours to get ready to play for the Thunder, and he ended up playing 19 minutes both at point guard and off the ball. The night truly commenced when the cheers from the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena were slightly louder than normal when the team exited the tunnel, then came to a roar when Fisher and his brief bio appeared on the massive video board above the court during warmups.
Once the game started Fisher could be seen sitting on the bench next to Nick Collison, talking with assistant coaches during timeouts in addition to joining in on team huddles. Finally, with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter, Fisher entered the game for Russell Westbrook and proceeded to play until the 7:50 mark of the second quarter. During that first stretch Fisher played tough defense on the ball in addition to battling for a loose ball. Then, with 18.4 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Fisher made his first assist on a crisp bounce pass to Nazr Mohammed, who knocked down a jumper. During the rest of the quarter, Fisher talked strategy with Head Coach Scott Brooks during a stoppage in play, and Russell Westbrook came out to nearly half court congratulate him at a time out. In the second half, Fisher came into the game with 1:14 left in the third quarter and played the entire rest of the game, hitting his second shot of the night, a three-pointer from the corner. The crowd exploded when he hit the shot, and by the end of the night Fisher had finished with five points, a rebound, an assist and even a blocked shot.
"I was just trying to keep it as simple as I could, but right away develop an open relationship with coach and make sure I'm asking questions," Fisher said. "There are no dumb questions, obviously, on day one. But this group of guys is just easy to mesh with. They really deserve the credit for any sense of comfort that I felt. It was more because of them than me."
The game turned in the second quarter, when the Thunder took a one-point, 36-35 lead with 10:56 remaining in the half and made it a 13-point advantage. Starting with a Nick Collison put-back layup, then two consecutive corner 3-pointers by Lazar Hayward, the Thunder burst out to a 16-4 run that changed the game dramatically. Kevin Durant hit a jump shot, Nazr Mohammed made a layip and James Harden knocked down a three-pointer to finish out the run, as the Thunder led 52-39 with 6:26 remaining. The Clippers never truly challenged after that, getting the game into single digits only twice after that. While the Thunder defense forced four missed shots and two turnovers during the run, it was Hayward's play that was impressive and an important spark.
"I felt really good," Hayward said. "The coaches have been doing a great job of making sure I'm staying ready. I've constantly been working in the gym every day with Royal (Ivey). I just want to come out there and bring energy, bring defense, whatever the team calls for."
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Three straight dunks or layups to start the game, all assisted, then Serge Ibaka snags an offensive board and puts it back for a dunk and foul... Ibaka slips a screen and Russell Westbrook finds him for an early bucket... Ibaka being active on the glass and grabbing an offensive rebound that counts after a goaltend... Durant backs his man down and uses his strength to back his man down, then he makes a smart foul to stop a sure dunk from DeAndre Jordan... Nice job by Westbrook to isolate Jordan and shake-and-bake to get into the lane and draw a foul... Durant showing great anticipation to jump up and swat away an alley-oop attempt for Blake Griffin... Great hustle from Harden to make a steal and then slam it on the fast break... Smart foul by Nick Collison to stop a sure dunk... Nick Collison with a perfect box out then tip-in of a Harden miss... Beautiful ball rotation as Harden finds Lazar Hayward in the corner for a 3-pointer, and then he does it again from the corner!... Harden so strong as he comes down with a rebound then hangs onto the ball as he gets his arm grabbed... Perfect defense by Collison on Kenyon Martin to force a bad pass turnover... Durant recognizing he has the much smaller Randy Foye on him so he backs him down and hits a floater... Harden deals with a tipped ball, then somehow sees Mohammed through all the mess for a layup... Durant then hits Harden on a cross-court pass for a 3-pointer... Ibaka frees himself up for a dunk, Perkins makes a tough board, then Durant finds a cutting Westbrook for a layup... Nice awareness by Perkins to be in the right spot to snag an offensive rebound and give the Thunder another scoring chance... Tough inside work by Perkins and Ibaka to box out and grab a defensive board, then Durant makes a spectacular reverse layup that banks high off the glass... Then Durant makes a steal and passes it ahead to Westbrook, who looses it, but Ibaka makes a steal and lays it in... Westbrook thanks him by driving and dishing to Ibaka on the next possession for a jumper.
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Durant finds Perkins for a layup to open the second half, then Durant forces an airball and nearly throws down an insane one-handed alley-oop... Ibaka impacts a dunk attempt then helps lead a secondary break that Durant finishes with a jumper... Thabo Sefolosha relocates into the corner, and Durant finds him on a drive to the lane, then Sefolosha does a nice job of fronting around a screen to stop a pass from being completed... Westbrook comes off a Perkins screen and hits Durant for a 3-pointer then Ibaka and Perkins locate Jordan and block his hook shot attempt... Nice hustle and anticipation by Westbrook to go after a steal after his miss and knock the ball away... Sefolosha uses his length to block a shot, then Ibaka swats a shot that leads to a Harden fast break... Really well executed set play as Durant curled into the lane and found Westbrook for a short-corner jumper... Expert job by Mohammed to tip in a missed Durant 3-pointer then he keeps his arms wide on a Chris Paul drive and makes a steal in the lane... FIsher and Collison play stand up, straight defense to prevent both Paul and Kenyon Martin from getting shot opportunities... Durant puts his hand out to slow the team down then Westbrook tucks the ball and slides into the lane for a layup... Harden sets up in the corner for a 3-pointer and knocks down a triple after Fisher finds Collison, who drifts into the lane to set up the shot... Stout defense by Collison to stay strong to force a Griffin miss, then Fisher knocks down a corner 3 thanks to good ball rotation... Durant makes a block then saves it, then Westbrook flies up court and gets a bucket to count off a goaltend then Collison tips in a miss on the next possession... Hayward and Cole Aldrich do a nice job of tipping the offensive rebound out to Reggie Jackson then Fisher calls out a play and Hayward hits Ivey for a 3-pointer... Aldrich makes a nice block, Fisher and company smack the loose ball around and Jackson comes up with it.