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Oklahoma City Thunder: Assists have become bigger than ever for Thunder

Kevin Durant's first triple-double included elusive 10-assist plateau.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 19, 2012
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photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) passes around Detroit's Rodney Stuckey (3) during an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Oklahoma City won, 105-94. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) passes around Detroit's Rodney Stuckey (3) during an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Oklahoma City won, 105-94. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

On the night he achieved his first triple-double, finally reaching the elusive 10-assist plateau, Kevin Durant's best pass perhaps was one that didn't end in an assist.

Instead, it was a hockey assist, a pass that led to an assist.

It came midway through the second quarter, out of a timeout.

Going left to right, Durant took a dribble handoff from Kendrick Perkins at the top of the 3-point arc. He dribbled toward the right sideline and suddenly fired a bullet bounce pass to Kevin Martin, who set up his man beautifully with a backdoor baseline cut. Martin did the rest, hauling in the pass and tight-roping the baseline out of bounds line before dumping off a pass to Serge Ibaka for an uncontested dunk.

The sequence was one of 12 assists the Thunder had on 12 made field goals in the second quarter of Sunday's 119-109 win over Golden State. It was the prettiest display of teamwork among the 18 assists Oklahoma City had on 22 first-half baskets. That connection, more than any other on the night, characterized how the Thunder has boosted its offense this year by continuing a promising trend of improved ball movement.

“We moved the ball very well,” said Durant, who dished a game-high 10 assists to go with 25 points and 13 rebounds. “We found a good shot. Guys were taking what the defense was giving them, and once you do that everything seems a little bit easier.”

When the Thunder registered a season-high 31 assists at New Orleans on Friday, it prompted coach Scott Brooks to declare “I don't know if we've ever had that.” Brooks then watched his team go out and match that total two nights later.

Though 31 assists are five shy of the team's single-game record, set in a 41-point road win against the Los Angeles Clippers in the season finale of the 2008-09 season, the Thunder's 62 assists in the past two games are its most ever in a two-game span.

“The way we're playing basketball right now, 31 assists, that means everybody's touching the ball,” Durant said.

Before this season, Oklahoma City had tallied at least 30 assists only five times. None of those instances came last season, when the Thunder ranked last in assists at 18.5 per game.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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