THUNDER 100
HORNETS 79
5 Players who scored in double figures for the Thunder, making the team 9-0 when five or more players score ten or more points

10 Assists for Russell Westbrook for yet another double-double of the season

10 Steals by the Thunder, including three each by Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison

12 Blocked shots by the Thunder including three by Hasheem Thabeet and at least one for nine different players. The Thunder is 6-0 when blocking 10 or more shots as a team.

18-4 Fast break points advantage for the Thunder, aided by a 20-7 advantage in points off turnovers

37.0 Shooting percentage the Thunder held the Hornets to on the night

39-22 Bench scoring differential in the Thunder’s favor

52-34 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder on the night

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
When opposing point guards bring the ball up the court against the Thunder, they are met by a ferocious, relentless defender in Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder’s leader and point guard tries to harass the opposing ball-handler each nights to not only disrupt the opponent’s offense but also to create fast break and transition opportunities for himself and his Thunder teammates. That strategy worked to perfection on Saturday night in New Orleans as the Thunder took down the Hornets by a score of 100-79. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club held the Hornets to a meager 37.0 percent shooting on the evening, and that lock down attitude was the difference.

“We played with a lot of toughness,” Brooks said. “In order to win in this league, you have to play with toughness and our guys did that tonight to start the game off.

Throughout the night the Hornets struggled to get into its offensive sets or find an offensive flow, and that was mostly because of the pressure Westbrook put on players like Greivis Vasquez, as the Thunder forced 17 turnovers by making 10 steals. Westbrook also did a nice job funneling the ball-handlers into out of control drives that helped lead to 12 blocked shots by the Thunder on the evening. While all five men on the floor were responsible for the defensive effort, Westbrook set the tone.

“Russell was really good on the ball,” Brooks said. “I thought he had one of his better games. He’s had a bunch of them lately on both ends of the floor. Russell has the ability to do that. There’s not a lot of guys that can impact the game defensively and offensively like he has… He set the tone and our guys rallied around that.”

For the Thunder, offense normally takes care of itself if it plays with the correct mentality on the defensive end, and the numbers bear that out. Brooks’ squad shot 50.6 percent as five Thunder players scored in double figures. Kevin Durant led the way with 20 points, Kevin Martin scored 19 and Westbrook added 18 points and 10 assists.

The Thunder is now 9-0 when five or more players score in double figures, but the ability to have balanced scoring starts at the defensive end, because when opponents turn it over or miss shots, they can’t set their defense. In particular, the Thunder keyed in on the Hornets’ Ryan Anderson, who shot only 6-for-17 on the evening, including 3-for-11 from three-point land.

“We know we have to play defense, that’s one thing that we talk about night in and night out,” Martin said. “Tonight it was stopping Anderson from shooting threes, so I think we did a good job of with that and we’ll continue to grow in that area.”

Tonight the Thunder took full advantage of the stops it got on the defensive end, creating a 20-7 advantage in points off turnovers and an 18-4 mark in fast break points. The main goal for Westbrook and this Thunder defense is to keep their men in front of them, contest every shot, box out, grab the rebound then find early offense before the opponent’s defense is set. Against New Orleans, that mission was accomplished, and the win was an example of something the Thunder wants to continue to do, starting in its next game on the road against the Brooklyn Nets.

“I think we did a good job of making them miss and got out on the break and got easy points,” Westbrook said. “We’re just playing together, especially on the road. This is a good young team and this was a great team win.”

Turning Point:
Perkins cuts into the lane and Durant fires a pass to him with perfect timing to knock down a floater in the lane. Beautiful drive-and-dish by Sefolosha to drop off a pass to Kendrick Perkins after Perkins snagged an offensive rebound. Great communication by Westbrook and Collison to pick up one another’s men, then getting in proper position to have Collison to take a charge.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perkins cuts into the lane and Durant fires a pass to him with perfect timing to knock down a floater in the lane. Beautiful drive-and-dish by Sefolosha to drop off a pass to Kendrick Perkins after Perkins snagged an offensive rebound. Great communication by Westbrook and Collison to pick up one another’s men, then getting in proper position to have Collison to take a charge.

Plays the box score won't show, second half:
Great recognition by Westbrook and Durant to pick out an opportunity for an alley-oop in the half court set. Durant smartly stays on his feet and doesn’t bite on the pump fake, then takes advantage and blocks a shot. Nice hustle by Collison to first poke the ball away to help Martin make a steal, then he hustles down the floor to follow up an alley-oop miss. Staunch man-to-man defense leads to a shot clock violation against the Hornets.



“If you contest shots in this league, you usually make the teams miss. That’s what we did tonight. We did a good job of rebounding. It was just a good offensive game and defensive game for us. We just have to keep building our habits and go to Brooklyn and play the same way.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
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