Regular Season Recap: Thunder at Nuggets
4 Different Thunder players who scored in double figures
7 Steals by the Thunder on the night, by five different people
9 Blocked shots by the Thunder, including 5 by Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined
22 Assists by the Thunder on the night, including 4 or more by three different players
24 Points by Kevin Durant on the night, the game-high
24 Points off turnovers for the Thunder tonight
28-14 The margin by which the Thunder outscored the Nuggets in the third quarter
48.0 The 3-point shooting percentage by the Thunder tonight
The Thunder returns home to face the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. Game time is 8:30 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.
The Thunder then hosts the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night before traveling to Utah to face the Jazz on Tuesday night then hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
All season long, the Thunder has been a team that has utilized the "next play" mentality, meaning that no matter what happened on the previous play or the night before, the team comes ready to play with its full intensity and focus. Regardless of whether it came off a hard-fought, buzzer beater win or a difficult loss, the Thunder aims for consistency in its level of play each night, and that attitude carried over into its 103-90 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night. In order to forget the previous night's game, the Thunder must focus on controlling the strength of its opponent, and tonight the Thunder kept the Nuggets' fast break offense in check.
“That was the main concern," Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "This team leads every category in fast break points, points in the paint, baskets after made field goals. They lead everything. We did a good job of eliminating that as much as we could. There are a couple of stretches where they got out in front of us for leak outs and mainly it was off of our bad shots and turnovers but overall we played good defense and that’s what we have to continue to do.”
After building up a solid lead in the first half, the Thunder allowed the Nuggets to re-gain the lead before halftime, taking a 51-50 lead into the break. After halftime, the Thunder scored the first eight points and never again surrendered the lead. With 22 assists on the night, most of the Thunder's success stemmed from its ability to not only handle the ball, but distribute it without turning it over.
“We moved the ball well and only had five turnovers in the second half and they got five points off of those turnovers," Brooks said. "That was a big part of our win. We came out in the second half did a better job of taking care of the ball and taking better shots, not taking quick shots, but taking good shots. I thought that was another big part of our win.”
Forward Kevin Durant was the game's high scorer, but also one of six Thunder players with multiple assists on the night. Russell Westbrook led the team with five during his 34 minutes, but James Harden ended up with four assists, as did rookie point guard Reggie Jackson. In the second half in particular, the Thunder made the extra effort to share the ball and find the open man, which led to the team shooting 12-for-25 from 3-point land and 46 percent from the field on the night. After the game, Durant talked about how important the ball movement was to the team's success.
“Once we moved the ball two or three times, guys were getting hockey assists and we were just making shots," Durant said. "Once you make shots it makes it easier to go down there and defend with all your heart and it was a fun game. I think we did a great job of limiting on their fast break points. They are a great scoring team and I think we did a great job of slowing them down.”
The turning point in this game came in the third quarter, when the Thunder out-scored the Nuggets 28-14. It was a one-point Nuggets lead at 51-50 to start the third quarter, but less than four minutes later the Thunder led 58-51 and was well on its way to a double digit lead. Thanks to two technical free throws by Kevin Durant and a fade-away jumper by the NBA's second-leading scorer, the Thunder jumped out to a four point lead, then Thabo Sefolosha hit a 3-pointer off a Russell Westbrook assist to make it an 8-0 run to start the third quarter. The Thunder never led by less than five the rest of the way.
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kendrick Perkins with a tough inside move to score in the paint, then Russell Westbrook knocks down mid-range jumpers... Slick feed from Westbrook to Perkins for a dunk, then Serge Ibaka helps over for a nice help-side block... Thabo Sefolosha plays tough defense, then Kevin Durant makes a steal and converts on the other end... Perkins drives to the lane then kicks to Durant for a 3-pointer... Strong defense by Nick Collison to body up then get a defensive rebound... James Harden sets up in the corner to knock down an open 3-pointer... Daequan Cook does a nice job of defending then forces a turnover then Nazr Mohammed tips in a missed Harden shot... Tough rebounding inside on both ends by Reggie Jackson to grab rebounds and extend possessions... Cook receives a cross-court pass from Harden, then dribbles in the lane for a fall-away jumper, then Jackson hustles for a loose ball and finds Harden for 3-pointer... Mohammed with a big block on the inside then Cook knocks down a 3-pointer... Nice pressure by Harden to pressure the ball and force a turnover after consecutive buckets by Cook and Mohammed... Incredible strength and hustle by Westbrook to track down a defensive rebound... Great team defense to keep Denver in check and force a tough missed jumper... Incredible patience by Harden to pump fake and get in the lane off a Perkins pick, then Ibaka with a strong defensive rebound... Nice transition defense by Harden and Westbrook to force a turnover... Really smart rebounding by Collison to grab a defensive rebound after tipping the ball to himself... Great rebound by Mohammed that leads to a Westbrook fast break to draw a foul... Really solid defense by Westbrook to contest a Danilo Gallinari 3-pointer before the half and force a miss.
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Ibaka spins and drives hard to the lane to draw a foul... Westbrook with tight defense to force a turnover by Ty Lawson... Durant doubles down and forces a turnover on the defensive end... Westbrook drives and dishes to Sefolosha for a corner 3-pointer... Pretty passing between Perkins, Sefolosha and Ibaka to get a slam dunk in the lane... Durant with a fierce dunk in the lane while drawing the foul!... Perfect step back 3-pointer by Westbrook after a nice pick up top... Nice awareness by Durant to make a steal then take it to the cup for a dunk, then Ibaka slaps away a shot that leads to a Westbrook-to-Harden alley-oop... Jackson finishes at the rim as the shot clock expires, then Collison makes a rebound on defense and Cook knocks down a 3-pointer... Collison knocks down a jumper as the shot clock expires... Jackson knocks down a corner 3-pointer thanks to a Cook no-look pass... Great hustle by Jackson to slide in and make a rebound, which leads to a Harden-to-Collison layup in the paint... Sneaky quick steal by Westbrook to play the passing lane by Westbrook... Well-executed triangle passing between Durant, Westbrook and Harden that sets up Harden for a 3-pointer on the wing... Great positioning by Jackson to reel in a defensive reobund that leads to a Durant jumper... Incredible one-handed rebound by Durant to palm the defensive board in the air and reel it in... Westbrook shows his toughness in the final minutes of the game with drives to the lane... Great extra pass from Jackson to get Harden his fourth 3-pointer.