Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC wins with Kevin Durant and defense

The Thunder won because Kevin Durant scored 46 points and again went wild down the stretch. But the Thunder also won because it turned up the defensive heat.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 21, 2014

“The first half, (Aldridge) was making shots you didn't think he was ever going to miss.”

Aldridge was 7-of-18 shooting with Gran Torino in the game, 5-of-8 shooting with Perk on the bench.

Meanwhile, after halftime, Brooks switched Sefolosha over to Lilliard, the mighty mite point guard who makes the Portland offense go.

Lillard first half: 10 points, 5-of-10 shooting, two assists.

Lilliard second half: four points, 1-of-5 shooting, two assists.

“Felt pretty good switching and guarding him,” Thabo said. “It worked for us.

“It's not a struggle. Honestly, I feel like I'm the best defender in the league” on the perimeter.

The NBA's defensive stats back up Thabo, who is at or near the top in the league's defensive statistics.

The Blazers made 21 of their first 35 shots and still were shooting 53 percent when they led by nine late in the third quarter.

But Portland missed 17 of its final 24 shots, and the Thunder D was spectacular down the stretch.

After the Thunder fell behind 95-90, its defense delivered on five straight possessions:

* Perkins played Aldridge tough, prompting a missed 14-footer.

* Sefolosha smothered Lilliard, disrupting a Portland possession, and Aldridge threw the ball out of bounds.

* Serge Ibaka blocked two shots and Perkins one in a four-second span, and Aldridge finally missed a 17-footer.

* Aldridge missed two contested jumpers.

* Perkins swiped a lob pass.

The Blazers were done, and one final Durant 3-pointer put the capper on the 15-0 run.

“We held the best-scoring basketball team 13 points below their average when they were making a lot of shots in the first half,” Brooks said.

“We were just going to keep chipping away and hopefully, we would start making some shots, and I think we did.”

The highlight tapes will be full of Durant's wondrous shots. That's as it should be.

But Durant had some help, and it came on the other end of the court.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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