Regular Season Recap - Thunder at Rockets

5 Blocked shots for Serge Ibaka, who also had 16 points and seven rebounds.

5 Players in double figures for the Thunder on the night (Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka and Martin)

6 Made three pointers for Thabo Sefolosha, a career-high

11 Assists for Kevin Durant, a career-high, part of his second career triple double

24-for-27 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder

27-12 Scoring differential between the benches, in the Thunder’s favor

28 Points for Russell Westbrook, in addition to ten rebounds and eight assists

28 Points for Thabo Sefolosha, a career-high, on 11-for-16 shooting

GAME IN REVIEWBy Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer Feb. 20th, 2013

RECAP: HOUSTON – All 48 minutes in an NBA are crucial, and on Wednesday night the Thunder played well for most of them, but the Houston Rockets capitalized on the select few they didn’t.

Using a 23-4 run over a six minute span in the fourth quarter, the Rockets erupted in the fourth quarter and turned a 14-point Thunder advantage into a 122-119 defeat for Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club. The Thunder allowed 65 points in the second half on Wednesday, and while the team certainly could have executed better, the Rockets average over 106 points per game as the league’s most potent offense. It showed during that run, when the Thunder just couldn’t get quite enough stops to quell the Rockets’ attack.

“You have to give them a lot of credit,” Brooks said. “They’re a tough team to stop. They lead the league in scoring and they spread the floor. They have great three-point shooters.”

The Thunder did really clamp down during the second quarter against the Rockets, holding Houston to only 21 points, and outscoring its opponent by 12 in the second frame. By forcing the Rockets into 7-for-21 shooting, including 1-for-8 from the three-point line while also out-rebounding its opponent by five, the Thunder dominated the second quarter, taking control of the game, something that lasted until mid-way through the fourth quarter. That was a positive sign from the Thunder defense, led by wing stopper Thabo Sefolosha, but it didn’t last long enough for Brooks’ liking.

“I think we were just playing with a lot of energy, relying on one another’s help,” Sefolosha said. “They didn’t have any easy shots. I think that was a constant throughout the game, but they made a lot of tough shots.”

Sefolosha stepped up on the offensive end as the veteran guard knocked down a career-high six three-pointers and a career-high 28 points, lifting the Thunder on that end of the floor. By spacing out appropriately, finding his most efficient shooting area in the corner and finishing at the rim, Sefolosha was an X-factor for the Thunder throughout the night.

Kevin Durant, who finished with his second career triple double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists, said that the Thunder hopes to give players like Sefolosha more-and-more opportunities as the year goes on.

“We need to keep giving those guys confidence because we’re going to need them to hit shots later in the season,” Durant said. “Thabo has been doing that lately.”

Durant and Sefolosha were two of five Thunder players who scored in double figures, including Russell Westbrook’s near triple double of 28 points, ten rebounds and eight assists. Serge Ibaka added 16 points while Kevin Martin led the Thunder’s bench to a 27-12 advantage over the Rockets with 15 points of his own.

It was Sefolosha, however, who was the primary beneficiary of Durant and Westbrook’s combined 19 assists, knocking down jumpers on drive and kicks throughout the evening. Unfortunately his scoring outburst wasn’t enough tonight, but he and his teammates will maintain a positive attitude as they correct their mistakes, looking ahead to Friday’s home matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I felt good on the court, but it doesn’t matter with the loss,” Sefolosha said. “We have to keep building, we have to keep working, keep trusting one another and get back on the right path and win games.”

Turning Point: The Thunder was up 107-93 with 7:13 remaining in the game, but the Rockets went on a 23-4 run over the next six minutes to take a 116-111 lead over the Thunder with 1:20 remaining in the game. It started with a James Anderson jump shot, his only attempt of the game, and continued with two Greg Smith buckets, a three-point play by James Harden, a Harden fast break layup and then a Jeremy Lin runner. Harden and Lin knocked down back to back threes then Harden hit a deep step-back two to finish the run.

Plays the box score won't show, first half: Thabeet changes a shot on defense by using his length, then Sefolsoha hustles back behind the play to block a shot. Thabeet keeps a possession alive by tipping a loose rebound then Westbrook wrestles a defensive board away from a much bigger man. Beautiful driving bounce pass from Durant to Ibaka in the lane for an easy bucket. Westbrook does the same for Sefolosha later. Martin reads the defense perfectly and finds an angle to the hoop on a cut for an easy dunk. Perry Jones with a strong move as he rebounds an offensive board and draws a foul. Great defensive possession by Jones to force a difficult missed shot in the lane.

Plays the box score won't show: Nice movement on defense by Durant to keep his feet ready to draw a charge. Westbrook dives down and times his jump perfectly to block the much taller Omer Asik. Incredible hustle and toughness by Ibaka to protect the rim multiple times on the same possession. Slick cross-court pass from Durant to Sefolosha in the corner for three. Westbrook puts a hand in Jeremy Lin’s face and forces an air-ball. Nice defense by Durant to dive into the lane and get a hand in to slap the ball away.

“We have to bounce back, there’s no question. We’re going to eventually lock in on the defensive end and get the stops that we need consistently for 48 minutes and not inconsistently. We still do a lot of good things and we still have some things to work on. Friday is a game where we’re going to have to get better defensively.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks

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