The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Brooklyn Nets on the road, 117-111. The Thunder used great shooting throughout the affair, shooting 60.6% on the night, to build an early lead that put the hometown Nets on the defensive. Up 16 points in the 3rd, the Thunder looked to have things in hand when the Nets went on a big run in the 3rd quarter to narrow the lead to a single basket. The Thunder managed to do just enough the rest of the way to never surrender the lead, and in the end OKC was able to hit enough free throws to send them to their 15th win of the season.
The Thunder were led by Kevin Durant, who scored 32 points, including 12-12 from the free throw line. Durant also collected 6 assists and 5 rebounds on the night. Russell Westbrook, who was locked up in a great point guard duel with Deron Williams most of the night, scored 25 while handing out 9 assists. The Thunder got unexpected contribution from Thabo Sefolosha, who finished with 14 points on the night, including 2-3 from 3-point range.
The Nets were led by Williams, who finished with 33 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal. He was aided by Andray Blatche, who finished with a huge 19 points and 11 rebounds, 8 of which were offensive.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
I went into this game with the mindset that this was the kind of talented team that the Thunder really needed to play well against to determine whether their recent winning streak was worth its salt. When OKC went up 16, I thought that they were finally matching the level of play the Miami Heat had been maintaining, especially since the Heat beat the Nets two nights before by 13 points. While a double-digit win would have been nice, I think that winning a close affair like this one, especially in the Nets' new home stadium, serves the team better in the long run.
The early lead was fun as the Thunder were shooting the lights out through two and a half quarters, but then the Nets made their run and showcased why they are a completely remade team. Their starting 5 have a lot of offensive firepower. Brooklyn made their run on the strength of outstanding 3-point shooting and OKC entered the 4th staggering. However, OKC righted themselves, regained their balance, and then methodically moved through the 4th quarter (12 of their 27 4th quarter points came at the free throw line). It wasn't a flashy close-out, but the Thunder have learned enough about themselves to be able to produce the points they need when it matters most.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The Thunder were able to build up a big enough lead that they could sustain the Nets' 3rd quarter charge. Between Deron Williams, who played his best offensive game of the season, Gerald Wallace, who had 4 3-pointers in the 3rd, and even ageless veteran Jerry Stackhouse, the Nets brought the heat in the 3rd in a big way and erased the huge deficit to pull within two points. The tide was turning.
With one final possession left in the 3rd, Kevin Durant re-entered the game with 15 seconds left on the clock. Durant drove the ball from the top of the key and finished with his left hand at the rim to push the lead back to 4 points. It was a strong move by an increasingly strong player, and Durant was giving notice that he was not going to bend to the Nets' onslaught.
The key sequence in the 4th quarter came in the first 3 minutes when the Nets were still trying to sieze the momentum. Afte Durant's quarter-ending play, the Thunder resumed their control by finally solving the Nets' perimeter defense. Backup PG Eric Maynor, who entered the game because Westbrook picked up his 4th foul with over 10 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, finally played crucial minutes in a close game and came through in a big way. He hit Nick Collison with a beautiful feed for a dunk, nailed a deep 3-pointer, and then assisted Collison on a second layup to help push the lead back to 9 points.
From there on out, the Thunder continuously worked the ball into Westbrook and Durant's hands, and the pair delivered. After Collison's last layup, Durant and Westbrook combined for 16 of the team's final 19 points.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Thunder shot 60.6% from the floor for the game, 50% (7-14) from the 3-point line, and 30-34 from the free throw line. As amazing as those team statistics are, the frustrating thing is that they needed every bit of it because they were dominated on the glass by the Nets, and that was without starting center Brook Lopez. The Nets outrebounded the Thunder 40-33, which is bad enough, but the real pain came from the offensive glass. The Nets grabbed 16 offensive rebounds on the night, which led to a staggering 25 additional shots taken by Brooklyn. Specifically, the Nets got 8 huge offensive rebounds from Blatche, who consistently confounded the Thunder big men. For whatever reason, Blatche looked like a reincarnated Hakeem Olajuwon, pulling down rebounds, shooting jumpers, and unleashing all sorts of head fakes and up-and-under moves that led to 19 points.
Defensively, the Thunder kept the Nets shooting under 43% for the game, but that work was largely undone by giving up so many offensive rebounds. By letting Brooklyn stay close, the Nets' 3-point barrage in the 3rd quarter was enough to turn the affair into a single possession game. Williams in particular, who has clearly struggled early this season, finally found his mojo by getting 13 points in the 3rd and hit 2 quick 3-pointers in the 4th.
As amazing as Williams was, we have to give huge props for Sefolosha's play in the game. After Williams hit his 2nd 3-pointer in the 4th, OKC decided to make a change. Westbrook had been guarding Williams, but Scott Brooks elected to move defensive specialist Sefolosha onto Williams for the remainder of the game. The result? Williams did not make another basket the rest of the way.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
A few final thoughts to look ahead:
- OKC did a really bad job managing their big lead in the 3rd. Clearly the Nets got hot from 3-point range, but their go-to guy, Gerald Wallace, was being repeatedly left wide open from long range. He finished 4-4 in the quarter and was a big reason why the Nets mounted a comeback. OKC must be able to find the hot shooters and then be disciplined enough not to leave them alone.
- Maynor has obviously struggled this season, but this game may mark as a turning point because "E" had to be able to perform well, with Westbrook in foul trouble. Maynor answered the bell.
- Defensive rebounding...needs some work.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 32 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Martin, only 7 points on 2-4 shooting in 27 minutes
Thunder Plunderer: Deron Williams, 33 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds
Next game: vs the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday Dec. 7 at 8:30 CDT
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