Regular Season Recap - Thunder at Pistons
5 Consecutive games that the Thunder has held its opponents to under 42 percent shooting
8 Rebounds by Thabo Sefolosha on the night
10 Rebounds for Russell Westbrook, part of his double-double
12 Blocked shots by the Thunder, including six from Serge Ibaka and four from Kevin Durant
13-0 Run by the Thunder to start the fourth quarter to get back into the game
30-17 Scoring advantage held by the Thunder in the fourth quarter
33 Points by Russell Westbrook on the night, which was also his 24th birthday
37-for-42 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, the most made and attempted all year
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
Early on, the ball wasn’t going through the hoop, the Detroit Pistons were making tough shots and the Thunder struggled to find its rhythm.
None of that mattered to this mentally tough Thunder squad, who put all of that behind it and made a dramatic comeback to beat the Pistons 92-90 on the road. Heading into the fourth quarter the Thunder trailed by 11 points, but rallied with a 13-0 spurt to begin the quarter and played with a vigor and fire that turned the game around. The intestinal fortitude the Thunder showed and the will-to-win it displayed was a mark Head Coach Scott Brooks has noticed out of his team over the last few years.
“It says that we never quit,” Brooks said to the Thunder’s Lesley McCaslin after the game. “That’s one of our trademarks that I’m so proud of. We always play hard until the end. There are a lot of games where we don’t play well, but there are very few where we don’t play hard… I thought our guys just did a good job of staying with it and playing for 48 minutes.”
During the fourth quarter, the Thunder held the Pistons to only 17 points on 25.9 percent shooting while blocking seven shots. That lock-down defense inspired the offense to go a perfect 18-for-18 from the free throw line and shoot 54.5 percent from the field during the final 12 minutes of play. According to the players and coaches, it was a tactical change on the defensive end by coach Brooks that sparked the big run.
“Coach made a great adjustment, switching every pick-and-roll, pin downs and cross screen,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We have so many athletic defenders, everybody stayed in front of their man and made them shoot tough shots and get rebounds. We have so many scorers on this team, everybody got to the free throw line and made easy shots.”
It was clear that the Thunder coaching staff trusted its players’ athletic prowess and mental ability to make the adjustment, and one of the key cogs was defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha. While the lengthy Swiss guard only scored two points, they came at a critical juncture on two late free throws. It was Sefolosha’s rebounding effort and energy in switches on defense that turned the game around and got the Thunder enough stops to close out the game.
“I thought Thabo’s game won the game,” Brooks said. “The way he played, he didn’t score until he hit those two free throws which were big that put us up one. His defense, his toughness, his game-winning plays, his eight rebounds… Thabo I thought won that game just with his sheer determination.”
Perhaps the game was personified, however, by one of the final sequences with the Thunder up by three and only seconds remaining on the clock. Durant missed a three-pointer, but Russell Westbrook came flying in from the perimeter to snag his tenth rebound of the night, sealing the victory with two free throws moments later. Westbrook’s hustle, relentlessness and constantly attacking mentality kept the Thunder engine revved up even when the ball didn’t bounce the right way. Eventually, the Thunder got some breaks and Westbrook and his 33 points helped his team capitalize.
“I thought he had a good floor game,” Brooks said. “He was competing and he was getting people involved… Overall, I thought his effort was good. I can never complain about Russell’s effort. He competed for all the time that he was in there. He didn’t get a lot of rest, but I thought the minutes he got were well-earned.”
Trailing 73-62 to start the fourth quarter, the Thunder knew it needed a massive fourth quarter effort to get back into the game. It’s 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter did exactly that. It all began on the defensive end with three combined blocks by Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant and a steal by Kevin Martin. Russell Westbrook knocked down a midrange jumper, then the Thunder strung together nine consecutive made free throw attempts before Westbrook made a driving layup. Just like that, the Thunder led 75-73, eventually holding onto that two point lead to victory.
“It was just about playing hard, playing together,” Durant said. “In that fourth quarter we picked it up.”
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Russell Westbrook leaps high, reaches back and snares an over-the-top pass to make a steal. Amazing wrap around bounce pass by Durant to Collison for a layup. Westbrook saves a loose rebound to keep possession by throwing it off a Piston player.
Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Kevin Martin with an incredible hustle play to track down a loose rebound then sprints down floor. Thunder plays solid defense and stays in front of ballhandlers to force a shot clock violation. Durant wins an important jump ball. Great anticipation by Westbrook to help down low and knock away a sure layup. Westbrook brilliantly saves his dribble by knocking it off a Piston before picking it up and scoring at the rim. Wonderful post defense by Westbrook on the bigger Monroe to force a three second violation. Westbrook with unreal hustle to snag an offensive rebound to effectively seal the win.
“We went small and we just switched everything. I thought the guys did a great job of just showing some activity, getting their hands on loose balls and rebounding the basketball. Then we spread the court offensively and we were doing a good job of attacking and getting to the free throw line.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks