The Oklahoma City Thunder (8-10) fell victim to a high-powered scoring exhibition at close to its best Friday night, even without one of three main acts.
The Brooklyn Nets (13-8) showed why they are possibly the best team in the Eastern Conference and the NBA, shooting close to 60% in a 147-125 stomping that snapped the Thunder’s two-game win streak.
The Nets were just fine without two-time MVP Kevin Durant, who caught a breather upon another return to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
2018 MVP James Harden and six-time All-Star Kyrie Irving led a franchise-record scoring effort, going for 25 points apiece as the Nets tied their all-time high for points in regulation. Harden rounded his night off with a triple-double, including 11 assists and 10 rebounds while Irving dished out seven helpers.
Thunder head coach Mark Daignault was quick to give the superstar tandem a nod postgame.
“They were good,” Daignault said. “We could have been sharper, especially in the first half when they got in their rhythm, but give them a lot of credit. We put two on the ball against them and they moved it and made the extra passes. They played with a lot of chemistry and made us pay.”
Seven of Harden and Irving’s teammates scored in double digits, including Joe Harris with 20 and Bruce Brown with 19.
The Thunder’s hot start - a 5-0 run in the opening minutes - was about all the momentum they could muster. In fact, five points were their largest lead as the game quickly turned towards a Brooklyn runaway. OKC at one time surrendered a 25-point deficit, but never battled back or made it close like in recent losses.
Theo Maledon started in place of George Hill and made the most of the opportunity. The 19-year-old from France scored 24 points on an outstanding shooting effort, going 6-for-6 from the 3-point range and 8-for-9 overall in just over 33 minutes.
“He’s a pretty confident player, stable and solid,” Daignault said of Maledon postgame. “He’s used to playing at a certain pace and we’re really encouraging him to be more aggressive and play with more pop. I think he’s done that, even before tonight.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his All-Star season, scoring 24 points with five assists. He went 10-for-13 from the free-throw line and 7-for-10 from the field. Hamidou Diallo scored 18 off the bench while Al Horford and Darius Bazley went for 16 and 14.
“I thought offensively we were pretty good and pretty sharp,” Daignault said. “We generated good shots and got to the line. We came out at halftime and had good possessions, but just not enough stops to climb back.”
OKC’s problems defensively were not exclusive to the 3-point line, but also in the paint where they gave up 70 points mostly on clean layups and dunks as well as putbacks on 10 offensive rebounds.
The rebounding battle wasn’t even close at 50-36.
“We didn’t throw our best pitch defensively,” Daignault said. “We have to learn from it against a team like that and move forward.”
The Thunder will look to bounce back Monday in the first of two straight against the Houston Rockets (8-9) at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
They cap the homestand next Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-14).