TANZANIA's professional basketball player, Hasheem Thabeet, had 10 points and five rebounds as his National Basketball Association (NBA) League's side, Oklahoma City Thunder, rolled to a 108-88 victory over Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
Thabeet, currently serving as Thunder's backup centre, logged almost 23 minutes and scored the 10 points (tying his career-high) on 2-for-2 from the field and 6-for-6 at the line. He also grabbed five rebounds, blocked two shots and stole the ball before fouling out late in the game.
Thabeet, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder forced 17 Raptors turnovers and held them to 35.7 per cent shooting, all indicators of a commitment to defensive principles. "We started the game off with a lot of intensity," Durant said. "That's what we need every game from here on out, to start the game off with a lot of energy.
We fed off our crowd, our bench was up and excited about every play. That helped us out a lot. Guys were moving the basketball and just helping each other on defence." The score was about level through the first six minutes, but thanks to a strong effort on the boards and tough defence by the Thunder starting unit, the game broke open.
Nine blocked shots also helped do the trick, but overall it was the energy, effort and vigour with which the Thunder starting unit displayed that spurred on the entire team. Once Kevin Martin and the second unit entered the game, they just picked up right where the starters left off.
"Just (the starters') intensity, when they start out the game like that, we'll be tough to beat," Martin said. "They started it and we came in and just wanted to pack the lane. We knew their tendencies and did a great job." Whether it was communicating properly, aggressively attacking the pick-and-roll or simply maintaining their proper coverages against high screens, the Thunder stayed true to its defensive principles throughout the night.
Nick Collison took a charge, Hasheem Thabeet protected the lane and Kendrick Perkins hauled in nine rebounds to continually get stops for the Thunder and give the team opportunities to get out and run. "We were much better tonight," Collison said. "We wanted to come out and really do much better.
I think it was just that our energy was better. It makes a big difference every possession if they don't penetrate and get in the paint to start it off." Being able to pull the ball down and get out in transition is a major boost to the Thunder offense, who saw 11 different players score, including six in double figures.
Thanks to slick ball movement and 24 assists, the Thunder was able to get good shots within the flow of the offence, drive the lane and draw fouls and get fast break buckets. It was the balanced scoring, with players like Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Eric Maynor and Thabeet combining for 47 points that boosted the Thunder offence all night.
"You need nights like that in the NBA," Martin. "You're not going to be able to beat teams with three guys (scoring). Tonight Serge stepped up, Eric played well and they're going to have nights like that. We're going to need them."