Thunder snap Nets' Barclays winning streak
Kevin Durant had 32 points, five rebounds, and six assists and Russell Westbrook chipped in 24 and nine dimes for Oklahoma City (15-4), who shot 61 percent from the field (including 50 percent from beyond the arc) and led by as many as 15 but had to close out strong to hand the Nets just their second home loss of the season.
The Nets saw all five starters reach double figures, with Deron Williams scoring 33 to become the first Net to reach 30 this season. Williams also added a team-high seven assists, and Nets head coach Avery Johnson was very pleased with the way his point guard stepped up to in the absence of Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans.
“Deron was aggressive; we gave him that extra day off to get his body together and it carried over to the floor,” Johnson said. “Deron was much more aggressive tonight and that’s what we’re going to need.”
Andray Blatche, who started his third straight game in place of Lopez, and Kris Humphries also both had double-doubles for Brooklyn (11-6), with Blatche notching 19 points and 11 rebounds and Humphries adding a dozen in each category – but it wasn’t enough to bring down the Thunder.
“Their offense puts your defense in a bind; we should win games when we score 111 points, but we’re not going to win many games where we give up 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three,” Johnson said after the loss.
The game looked bleak at halftime, as the Thunder shot 67 percent from the field in the first 24 minutes and led by 13 at the break. But the Nets, who have notoriously been less than stellar in the third quarter, charged out after the break with Gerald Wallace leading the way; Crash didn’t have a field goal in the first half, went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the third, and Brooklyn scored 38 points – their highest total in any period this season – to cut OKC’s lead to four.
“I challenged our team at halftime,” Johnson said. “I was disappointed with our effort in the first half; we were playing like we were giving (Oklahoma City) too much respect, and I didn’t see the Brooklyn Nets. I know our team, and that’s not the team I saw in Boston or Orlando. Sure, we’re missing some guys, but I didn’t see that look in their eyes; I saw that in the third quarter, and I saw our team in the second half.”
In the fourth, it was Joe Johnson’s turn to turn it on, as he scored 10 of his 17 points in the final frame. But with Blatche in foul trouble and a team that saw only seven men play more than seven minutes tiring slightly, the Nets couldn’t fully erase the deficit.
“We tried to go a little deeper in the first half, and it didn’t work out too good,” Johnson said. “We tried to shorten it up in the third quarter, and we did, switching Gerald to the four, and we got a lot of great energy…but when we tried to give them a short break at the beginning of the fourth, the Thunder went on a little bit of a run and we couldn’t get our guys back into it.”
After back-to-back losses to last year’s NBA finalists, the Nets will try to rebound when they host former analyst Mark Jackson and his Golden State Warriors on Friday. Golden State handed the Nets a loss in their first meeting out in California on Thanksgiving Eve, but Johnson believes there are a lot of positives his team can build on from that loss – and from the last two losses – to be ready for the Warriors Friday night.
“The season can be a season of cycles, and we’re not in a good cycle right now, but it’s no time to panic,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping that we can take a lot of what we showed in the second half into our next game. Where those teams are, that’s where we aspire to be.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES