Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Suns
3 Different players who scored 30+ points tonight for the Thunder (Russell Westbrook had 31, Kevin Durant had 30 and James Harden had 30)
8-for-12 Shooting night for James Harden. He shot 4-for-7 from the 3-point line and 10-for-11 from the free throw line
9 Offensive rebounds for Serge Ibaka, a career-high
10 Assists for Russell Westbrook, part of his double-double
20 Total rebounds for Serge Ibaka, his career-high
30 Points for James Harden on the night, his career-high
31-16 Point differential in favor of the Thunder in the fourth quarter
31-14 Fast break point differential in favor of the Thunder
The Thunder continues its home stand by hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.
The Thunder hosts the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night, then gets a few days off before taking on the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. On Thursday the Thunder will travel to Denver to face the Nuggets before returning and hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
Tonight's 115-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns was a game of numbers for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shrugging off a 16-point deficit, Head Coach Scott Brooks' squad utilized runs of 16-2 and 14-1 to not only get back into the game but take control and get the win. Thanks to 30-or-more points from Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant along with an 18-point, 20-rebound game by Serge Ibaka, the Thunder was able to use it's major weapons to get yet another home win at Chesapeake Energy Arena. As usual, the major runs that jumpstarted the Thunder started on the defensive end, where the team stole the ball 11 times and also recorded 10 blocks.
"That was a great win for us coming back from behind. That fourth quarter defense was a great performance," Brooks said. "Defensively we really got after the basketball... We wanted to do a better job and we did that in the second half, of controlling the basketball and making their decisions a little tougher. I thought Serge was a big part (of that). We are a good team, guys step up. Serge came in and came through and had a big night rebounding and scoring around the basket. James, Kevin and Russell, obviously scored the basketball for us tonight to get the win."
The Thunder has been a resilient bunch all season, refusing to give in or quit even when the circumstances seem dire. With balls bouncing the wrong way, breaks seemingly going against them and a hot-shooting Suns team lighting up the scoreboard, it would have been easy for the Thunder to coast and get ready for the home back-to-back it faces on Friday and Saturday. Guys like Durant, who only shot 10-for-27, decided instead to attack even harder, go after more loose balls and lock in and focus on the defensive end. As a group, the Thunder's commitment on the defensive side of the ball was essential to forcing the Suns to shoot only 3-for-17 in the fourth quarter, including 0-for-8 from the 3-point stripe.
"We were getting stops, blocking shots, guys were rebounding and we got some transition baskets," Durant said. "We were able to get a good win against a really good team."
The 16-point comeback was the largest for the Thunder since December 8th, 2010 against Minnesota, when it came back from 19 points down. In addition, with Westbrook's 31 points, Harden scoring a career-high 30 points on 8-for-12 shooting and Durant's 30 points, the Oklahoma City franchise had three players with 30-or-more points in the same game for the first time since Feburary 26, 1988 when Tom Chambers, Dale Ellis and Xavier McDaniel all did it. Last but not least, it was Ibaka's career-highs in both total rebounds and offensive rebounds that made the biggest impact on the night. Westbrook, who registered 10 assists, commented on both of his teammates' career-highs.
"Serge does a great job of getting us extra possessions, securing rebounds, closing the games out. He's been doing that all year," Westbrook said. "James is a great shooter, especially with his feet set. My job as a point guard is try to find and get guys shots."
The individual numbers were nice, but the only ones that mattered at the end of the night were the biggest ones on the scoreboard, and it showed that the Thunder had clinched it's 31st win of the season. During this 66-game season, it is imperative for teams to take care of their home court, which the Thunder has done with an 17-1 record so far this season. It took a great effort from the Thunder fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena to help rally its team back from a large deficit, but the persevering, determined squad refused to back down and even held the two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash to zero assists in the second half.
"We dug ourselves a hole," Westbrook said. "We did a great job of fighting back defensively in the second half. We're doing a better job of that the last couple games... We kind of let him (Nash) do what he wanted to do in the first half. We tried to put a little pressure on him and pressure on his passes in the second half."
The turning point in this game came, according to Head Coach Scott Brooks, when Royal Ivey checked into the game in third quarter with 5:03 remaining. Shortly thereafter the Suns had built its biggest lead of the night at 16 points with an 84-68 lead with 4:26 remaining. Things seemed only to be getting worse when Russell Westbrook picked up a technical foul with the Thunder down 84-72 wth 3:29 remaining in the quarter, but that sparked a burst from the Thunder that made it a two-point deficit at 86-84 Suns with 39.9 seconds left in the quarter. It started with a Westbrook steal and slam dunk, then James Harden hit a 3-pointer, Ibaka slammed one home off a Kevin Durant assist, then Durant knocked down a jumper of his own. The 16-2 run was capped by Westbrook's 3-pointer, and it changed the game from a Suns-dominated affair to a close contest going into the fourth quarter. From there, the Thunder embarked on a 14-to-1 run to turn a 90-84 deficit into a 98-91 lead thanks to nine points from Durant and five points from Harden. The Thunder were never threatened the rest of the way.
"Basketball is about a game of runs," Ivey said. "They got their run in the first quarter and first half. In the fourth quarter we made a run. It was a good run and we defended... We just locked in and played as a team, played as a unit and pulled out the victory."
"It's all about fighting and having each other's back," Ivey said. "That's what we finally did in the end of the third and fourth quarter. We decided we were going to play some defense and we decided we were going to stop our man and get back in transition. We did all those things and those were essential to the win. It's a good feeling when you pull out a win like that coming from 16 down."
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Tough defense inside by Kendrick Perkins, then nice hustle by Kevin Durant to grab a loose ball... Good toughness by both Russell Westbrook and Durant to convert baskets through contact... Incredible hustle to run the floor by Serge Ibaka to make a block in transition on one end then receive a pass from Westbrook on the secondary break and finish at the rim... Great defense from Ibaka and Westbrook to make a steal then start a run-out... Two consecutive offensive rebounds by the Thunder shows energy early on... Good show of strength by Ibaka and Nick Collison down low on a Marcin Gortat shot attempt... Nice drive and kick from Westbrook to Harden for a 3-pointer, then Westbrook drops one off for Harden again for thre on the next possession... Beautiful play by Harden to tip a loose ball to himself and then slam it home on the other end... Harden uses his patented Euro-step move to get to the rim and draw a foul at the same time... Westbrook so aggressive going to the basket and drawing contact... Great job of contesting by Nazr Mohammed and Harden to block consecutive shots at the rim... Westbrook with great positioning for a defensive rebound, which he helps turn into two points by feeding Durant for a slam dunk... Nice job of rotating on defense by Durant and Perkins to make a steal, then Perk runs the court and lobs one to Westbrook, who draws a foul... Perfect helpside defense by Perkins to come over and make a block... Incredible effort by Harden to tip a pass away and get it to Ibaka, who gave it back to Harden for a lay-in... Two quick offensive reboundsy by Perkins and Ibaka to put one back, then Westbrook steals the in-bounds pass and draws a foul... Ibaka helps over on a drive and blocks a shot near the rim, then Durant gets in on the act the next trip down... Beautiful cross-court pass from Westbrook to Ibaka to find him open in the short corner... Slick pass from Westbrook to Perkins for an old-fashioned 3-point play.
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice job by Durant to corral a defensive rebound, then hit a floaters as the shot clock expired... Collison steps in and draws a charge to get a much-needed stop... Silky smooth bounce pass from Westbrook to Ibaka for a jam... Heads up play by Collison to tap a loose offensive rebound out to the top of the key... Strong defense from Collison and Durant to steal the ball, then Ibaka flies in to make a basket-saving block... Westbrook and Collison trapping to force a bad pass that Durant comes up with and takes to the other end to draw a foul... Good hustle by Westbrook and Royal Ivey to save the ball and keep possession... Thunder as a whole doing a good job of keeping the ball alive and rebounding on both ends of the floor... Westbrook with great anticipation to make a steal then take it to the other end for a dunk... Ibaka saves the day by rotating over and forcing a travel under the basket... Unbelievable passing to destroy the zone defense between Harden, Durant and Ibaka for a dunk, then Ibaka forces another turnover... Westbrook's clutch 3-pointer extends a big run to make it a two possession game... Great recovery by Royal Ivey to get a piece of a shot attempt, then Ibaka cleans up the boards on both ends of the floor... Smart move by Ivey to wrap up Robin Lopez and prevent an easy dunk... Nice box out by Ivey to open it up for his Thunder teammates to grab a defensive rebound... Defensive intensity picks up as the Thunder forces another turnover... Thunder's first lead since 2-0 comes on a nasty shake-and-bake move by Durant to get to the rim... Durant saves a pass into the post by tipping it to himself, then uses his strength to put up a turnaround jumper that he converts... Unreal move by Harden to get to the rim and convert an old-fashioned 3-point play and eclipse his career-high in points... Great hustle from Ibaka and Reggie Jackson to secure an offensive rebound, then Ibaka and Durant control the glass then Durant finds Westbrook for a transition layup... On the next series, Durant and Ivey team up to make a steal, then Durant draws a foul on the ensuing fast break... Perfect timing on a pass from Harden to Ibaka for a jumper as the shot clock expired... Great screen by Durant to free up Westbrook for a 3-pointer... Westbrook hits Harden in the corner for a 3-pointer, then Ibaka rejects Gortat at the rim... Ibaka going full beast mode to wrestle down his 20th rebound... Nice work to get back in transition and then rotate in order to recover, then Harden slaps the ball away from the much taller Channing Frye... Ibaka sets a great screen to free up Westbrook for a 3-pointer... Durant and Ibaka team up to make a steal and seal the game.