Regular Season Recap: Knicks vs Thunder
14-for-14 Free throws by the Thunder in the first half.
12-0 Run by the Thunder in the second quarter.
70 First half points by the Thunder.
66.7% Combined shooting percentage of Durant, Westbrook and Harden.
21,8,8,3 The point, rebound, assist and steals totals for Russell Westbrook.
11 Number of blocks for the Thunder tonight.
12 The number of steals by the Thunder tonight.
10 The number of players who scored for the Thunder tonight.
The Thunder travels to Boston on Sunday to face the Celtics on Monday night. The game will be nationally televised on TNT and will also be broadcast on the Thunder Radio Network.
The Thunder then travels to Washington to take on the Wizards on Wednesday night. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team will get two nights off before finishing their road trip in New Jersey to play the Nets.
“I think we’re on a roll right now as far as the way we are playing,” James Harden said. “We just have to take it on the road. It’s going to be tough but I think we’re good enough to do it.”
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
It probably feels nice for Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks to be able to turn to his second unit for the entirety of the fourth quarter. Not only does it give his starting unit some much-deserved rest, but it also gives his reserves that much more time to gel on the court by playing together. Against the Knicks on Saturday night, the Thunder built a 92-65 lead thanks to a defensive effort that held the Knicks to 38.1% shooting through three quarters, including 4-for-15 shooting from 3-point range. The Thunder ran away to a 104-92 win, bringing the team to an 11-2 record on the season.
“I think just team defense,” forward Serge Ibaka said. “We were just quick, helping each other all night, so I think that was the key.”
In the first six minutes of play it was an even game and a true defensive battle, but in the second six minutes of the quarter went by at a much more torrid pace. In the second quarter the action truly heated up, as the Thunder exploded for 38 points. During a 12-0 run in the second quarter the raucous crowd in Chesapeake Energy Arena brought it’s noise level to a fever pitch as they cheered on their Thunder team, egged on by Russell Westbrook, James Harden and other Thunder players as they exhorted the crowd to raise the volume even higher.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor, we were moving the ball,” Brooks said. “16 assists at the half and our defense was probably some of the best defense that we’ve played all year. We sustained that for two quarters and I thought that was the key to the game. Then we came in the third quarter and gave the same energy and I thought the guys really were locked in and came out with focus.”
A shooting clinic from Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Harden marked the critical second quarter, in which the Thunder increased their lead to 23. The trio combined to shoot 24-of-36 on the night, including 6-for-9 from 3-point land. Durant finished with 28 points on 13 shots, Harden had 24 points on 12 shots and Westbrook had a balanced all-around game with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. It’s probable that the Thunder’s 16 assists on 25 made baskets through the first three quarters had a major impact on the high shooting percentages.
“I think we did a good job of staying focused and playing our game,” Durant said. “I think the coaches do a great job of getting us prepared for our opponents and we’re focused. I think everybody comes in every single day ready to play. And I think if we do that we can be a pretty good team. We’re just sticking to our concepts. Guys are not worried about who gets the points, who gets the rebound, who gets the assists, we’re just going out there and playing defense and having fun.”
At one point the Thunder pushed their lead to 31 points and were able to give reserves Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward some well-deserved action in the fourth quarter, while 2011 first-round draft pick Reggie Jackson continued to get minutes at the point guard position and develop his familiarity with his teammates and the Thunder’s system. All in all, it was a solid win for a Thunder team that simply basked in its chance to play in front of its home crowd, a luxury it missed all last week and will not have on their upcoming three-game road trip as well.
“They always say this is one of their tougher games, when you come back from a road trip and we go right back out,” Brooks said. “So it was really important that we really lock in and defend tonight from the start. We did that tonight… I just thought we played hard throughout the game.”
There were two turning points in the first half alone in this one. With 5:48 remaining in the first quarter the Thunder and Knicks were locked in a 13-13 tie when the Thunder burst out to a 17-7 run to put them up 30-20 with under a minute left in the quarter. The run was sparked by six points from Russell Westbrook, two 3-pointers by James Harden and five points by Kevin Durant. Durant and Nazr Mohammed had blocks during that first quarter stretch and the Thunder forced five Knicks turnovers, including a shot clock violation, during that five minute span.
In the second quarter, the Thunder also went on a 12-0 run that took a 51-40 lead with 3:29 remaining in the half and made it a 63-40 advantage with 1:28 left. That explosion was highlighted by baskets from Durant, Harden, and Ibaka, four of which were assisted on by Russell Westbrook.
Plays the box score won’t show, first half:
Serge Ibaka playing tough straight up defense on Amare Stoudemire, forcing him into a tough shot… Stoudemire attempting to have a war of words with Ibaka, who literally zipped his own lips… Tough offensive board by Ibaka, drawing a foul…Great block by Ibaka at the height of Amare Stoudemire’s dunk attempt… Russell Westbrook diving on the floor to give the Thunder possession after making a nice steal… Very physical, tough, defensive battle throughout the first quarter… Westbrook rising straight up on his midrange jumpers… Incredibly quick hands from James Harden to deflect a ball off a fast breaking- Tyson Chandler… Coach Brooks giving Reggie Jackson words of advice before he entered the game… Reggie Jackson battling down low with Tyson Chandler for a solid 15 seconds, then knocking the ball loose to force a shot clock violation… Immediate outlet pass from Nazr Mohammaed to James Harden for a run-out dunk… Slick behind the back pass from Harden to Nick Collison… Impeccable vision by Harden to hit Mohammad along the baseline… Daequan Cook pulling down multiple rebounds in traffic… Durant driving the lane then dropping off a pass to Kendrick Perkins for a lay in… Westbrook picking Stoudemire’s pocket then flushing home a dunk on the other end… Smooth step-through dribble by Harden to get to the basket… Ibaka standing up for himself against Chandler and Stoudemire, his Thunder teammates having his back… Westbrook and Perkins making an extra pass to set up a Westbrook layup…
Plays the box score won’t show, second half:
Thunder playing 24 solid seconds of pressure defense to force a Stoudemire miss as the shot clock expired… Sefolosha with a wonderful no-look pass to Ibaka down on the block to draw a foul… Westbrook with a perfectly executed transition bounce pass to Sefolosha to draw a foul on a layup attempt… Serge Ibaka throwing a Jared Jeffries shot into the stands off a help-side block… Durant stealing the ball from Stoudemire after he took one dribble then racing the length of the floor for a dunk… Sefolosha stealing the ball back immediately after it was stolen from Jackson… Mohammad flattening Toney Douglas on a well-executed screen… Harden stopping a New York run by slicing to the basket and pushing the lead back up to 27… A one-handed, leaping transition steal by Jackson to stop a fast break… Jackson making a similar steal in transition a mere minute later… Harden doing a nice job of drawing a foul on a 3-point shot attempt… Cole Aldrich battling hard for rebounds underneath, then forcing a jump ball… A fundamentally-sound lefty hook shot from Aldrich.