The stat of the night?
Three Thunder players with at least five assists.
Russell Westbrook had a game-high 10. Kevin Durant and James Harden had five apiece.
Ball movement was the name of the game Sunday against Orlando and the key to the Thunder’s 102-74 victory inside the Ford Center. Oklahoma City had 27 assists on 40 made baskets and 14 assists on their first 17 made field goals.
This, just three games after the Thunder recorded only six assists in a nine-point loss to Portland.
“We played as good as we could possibly play,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We did a good job of playing 48 minutes of team basketball. It was probably our best ball-moving game.”
Through spacing the floor and sharing the basketball, the team’s most critical offensive principles, the Thunder got high-percentage looks and broke out of an early season scoring slump.
Sunday’s point total tied the Thunder’s season-high, set on opening night against Sacramento. The Thunder’s 57.1 percent shooting from the field and 56.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line were season-highs. So were the 27 total assists.
“We were making our shots, but we were making our shots because we were passing the basketball,” Brooks said. “We had 27 assists. That’s great basketball. We had some bad offensive basketball when we had six assists the other night and 15 a couple of games later. We have to move the ball. We have to keep everybody involved. Five guys need to feel a part of it because that’s what it’s going to take on both ends of the floor.”
At halftime, Brooks showed his team film of the exceptional ball movement. Through the first 24 minutes the Thunder had 15 assists on 21 made baskets. OKC had just four turnovers. It led to a 53-44 advantage at the break.
“It’s a lot easier,” said Harden about the offense when the ball moves. “It’s a lot of us who can score, who can put the ball in the basket and make plays for other people. Everyone did it tonight.”
- Lost in the offensive breakthrough was the Thunder’s best defensive effort. OKC held Orlando to an opponent season-low 36.8 percent shooting and limited the Magic to three of 16 from the 3-point line. Orlando’s 74 points were also a season-low.
- The Thunder’s transition defense was big. By getting back on the break and limiting Orlando’s run outs, the Thunder held Orlando to just seven fast break points two nights after Houston torched the Thunder for 22.
- Kevin Durant looks to be coming out of his early shooting funk. After shooting 35.2 percent in the first four games, he’s made 59.4 percent of his shots in the past two games.
- The Thunder out-rebounded the Magic 45-30.
- Dwight Howard didn’t have a blocked shot. He had 10 the last time he was in the Ford Center.
- The Thunder put together its best second quarter (30 points) and third quarter (26 points) of the season.
- The best thing I can say about Thabo is, well, I’ll just let his stat line sum up his night… 13 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, one turnover, 4-for-6 shooting, 3-for-3 from 3 in 33 minutes.
- Nick Collison and Etan Thomas continue to be an effective tandem off the bench with their defense, energy and hustle. They combined for 10 points and 10 boards and did a great job tag teaming with Nenad Krstic on Dwight Howard. Give credit to Kevin Ollie, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeff Green and Kevin Durant, too. When Howard caught the ball deep or made a move, one of them would be waiting on him and were more than willing to foul and send him to the line. He made just 10 of 17 at the stripe.
- As for Krstic, he is going to eat up defenders this season who he knows can’t come out and guard him or don’t want to. Dwight Howard had to play much further away from the basket to defend Krstic and the Magic’s big man was a step slow all night in getting there. As a result, Krstic went 7-for-12 for 14 points.
- Krstic dislocated his left pinkie in the first quarter but returned to the game after being taken to the locker room briefly. I couldn’t see how it happened and didn’t get a chance to talk to Krstic after the game. He played the rest of the game with his pinkie and ring finger taped together. I’d be shocked if it’s anything that keeps him out.
- The Thunder is 3-0 when Russell Westbrook has 10 assists or more. He had 10 assists against Orlando.
- My mind could have been playing tricks on me, but I thought I saw Jeff Green hesitate a few times with his shooting tonight. He attempted just seven shots in 22 foul-plagued minutes. If he was a little hesitant, I wonder how much it had to do with his 3-for-15 shooting performance at Houston. I’ve never seen Green’s confidence waver, let alone after one bad shooting night. So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wasn’t hesitant.
THEY SAID IT
- Scott Brooks on the team’s 3-point shooting: “It helps when we have a big 3-point shooting game. We’re not a big volume 3-point shooting team. But I think that as we continue to grow and evolve we have to put that in our game.”
- Brooks on getting the third win early after a 3-29 start last year: “I thought about that 3-29 all summer long…We’re playing better basketball, but we still have to come to work tomorrow morning and get better and take it on the road.”
- Stan Van Gundy on the game: “We have no defensive toughness, and right now we aren’t a very good team. The Thunder are much better than us right now. They would have beat us if we had everybody. They play much harder than we do. They would have beat us here or in our place. We are just not as tough as they are right now. We are one of the worst defensive teams in the league and it showed tonight. We are a white collar team right now and those teams won’t win on the road.”
- Van Gundy on the Thunder’s improvement: “Their roster is better and their defense has picked up. Teams that play harder have a better chance to win and they are playing a lot harder on the defensive end. I think they have a good roster and it fits together very well. They have a great nucleus of Durant, Green, Westbrook and Sefolosha. They have toughness off the bench in Thomas and Collison that want to do the dirty work. Ollie and Harden also fit in nicely. They have toughness to go with their great players and we have to find that toughness.”
- Kevin Durant on Thabo Sefolosha’s shooting: “He is starting to hit the long range 3-ball a lot. That’s going to add another dimension to our team…a guy that they can’t help off of too much. He did a great job of knocking down shots and playing defense like he always does and also getting to the lane.”
- Jeff Green on building momentum against a short-handed team: “Any victory can get your confidence up, no matter who it’s against. The way we played today, the way we executed and the way our defense was, I think this was a great game for us going into these two games on the road and further on.”
BY THE NUMBERS
0: Blocked shots by Dwight Howard. He had 10 last season at the Ford Center.
32: Minutes for Kevin Durant, a season-low.
33: Biggest lead by the Thunder.
36.8: Percent shooting for Orlando.
45: Thunder rebounds, 15 more than Orlando.
102: Points for the Thunder, tying a season-high.
18,203: Attendance at the Ford Center, the third sellout this season.