The Brooklyn Nets competed hard and “battled” as Avery Johnson would say, but they just couldn’t get enough stops on defense in the 4th quarter to overcome a big deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nets were playing this game without 2 of their best big men, Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans, and lost this game 117-111. Brooklyn was led by their starters, who all scored at least 14 points. Deron Williams had one of his best games of the season, scoring 33 points, while dishing out 7 assists. Andray Blatche and Kris Humphries each had double-doubles. For OKC, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 55 points and 15 assists. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 11-6 on the season and 7-2 at home.
There aren’t a lot of moral victories for a team that is expected to go far in the playoffs, but this was definitely one for the Nets. Without Lopez or Evans, the Nets were still able to compete very hard against one of the NBA’s best teams, and a team who was on their game today. Despite a major size disadvantage, the Nets outrebounded OKC 40-33 while only holding the Thunder to two offensive rebounds (although one led to a very important layup late in the fourth quarter). The Nets collected 16 offensive rebounds themselves, leading to lots of second chance points.
I am confident that if Brook Lopez was available in this game for Brooklyn, the Nets would have won the game. Because of the injuries, Mirza Teletovic had to play 11 minutes. Although he didn’t play badly, he did not make much of an impact. Oklahoma City had too many looks near the basket tonight and if either Reggie Evans or Lopez played, the defense would have looked better.
The Nets did not look good in this game from the start. Their defense was awful in the first half and the Thunder broke out to a big lead in the second quarter. The third quarter was a different story. The Nets put 0n an offensive clinic, scoring a season high 38 points. And they weren’t even shooting that well. They were getting offensive rebounds and getting second opportunities. This comeback was led by Gerald Wallace, who knocked down 4 treys in the 3rd quarter. The Nets had cut a 16-point deficit down to 4 heading into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, the Nets never took the lead, but they did get within 2. The difference in this game really came to not getting rolls. Despite playing at home, I don’t know how many Nets layup attempts sat on the rim for 3 seconds and then fell out tonight. That is one reason why they shot only 43%. They were getting good looks, but their shots just weren’t falling. It is impressive that they were still able to score 111 points while shooting such a poor percentage.
The Thunder on the other hand shot a spectacular 61% from the field, 50% from 3, and 88% from the foul line. Every player who took a shot for OKC shot at least 50% from the field. That is incredible. Even though the Nets’ defense was not great tonight, the Thunder’s offense was clicking and I’m not sure any team in the NBA could have beaten them tonight.
This game was a change of pace from other games we have seen this year. The Nets have liked playing at a slow pace while holding opponents to under 100 points. Tonight, they played at OKC’s pace, and thus gave up 117. Brooklyn plays better at a slower tempo, but they let the Thunder control that aspect of the game tonight.
In their last two games, the Nets have played both teams that were in the NBA finals last season, the Heat and the Thunder. Even though they went 0-2 in those games, they had a chance to win each of them and they have proven that they can compete with any team in the NBA. That is one of the biggest differences from last season to this season. Last year, there were night when the Nets had no chance at all of winning. This season, they come into every game thinking they will win.
For a box score of this game, click here.
Player grades and notes:
Kris Humphries: B+
Humphries was pretty good today, at least offensively and rebounding-wise. He had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and he made a couple of clutch baskets in the fourth quarter. He did a good job on both the offensive and defensive glass. However, his defense on Serge Ibaka was awful. He gave Ibaka open mid-range jumps shots, which he surprisingly knocked down. I guess it’s not so surprising that he made them if Humphries was leaving him wide open. Coach Avery had to pull Humphries from the game at times because he wasn’t playing any defense.
Andray Blatche: A
Blatche had 19 points and 11 rebounds (8 offensive!!), another great performance. Whenever the Nets put up a shot, Blatche was always near the basket to get the rebound. I guess he took Reggie Evans’s role tonight. The difference between he and Evans was that Blatche scored, too. He had a couple of very nice dribble moves in this game and also finished on easy dunks after great passes from Deron Williams. He also shot 5-5 from the foul line tonight. Great game, Blatche.
Gerald Wallace: B+
Aside from the third quarter, Gerald Wallace did very little. However, he was great in that quarter. While Joe Johnson was missing open 3′s, Wallace was knocking them down. For some reason, Oklahoma City kept on leaving him open and he single-handedly brought the Nets back into this game. He didn’t do a great job of guarding Kevin Durant, who scored 32 points. But I can’t blame him for that. Nobody in the NBA can guard Durant.
Deron Williams: A+
Before this game, Deron Williams talked about how he wanted to score more, and he sure did that tonight, scoring a season high 33 points. He also shot 10-20 from the field and 5-9 from 3. This was definitely his most aggressive offensive game of the season. Defensively, Deron was not great, but he did force Russell Westbrook into some bad shots. I have liked the passing Deron Williams early in the season, but the shooting and driving one is pretty good, too.
Joe Johnson: ????
I have no idea what grade to give Joe Johnson. Although he scored 17 points (not bad), he is so frustrating to watch at times and is invisible at other times. In the third quarter, he was killing Nets rallies by missing wide open 3′s. He was 1-7 from long range in the game. However, in the fourth quarter, he returned to Iso-Joe, which worked for some reason. He backed down smaller players and took short jump shots, which went in. If not for those shots, he would have gotten an F. I really don’t know what to think about Joe Johnson.
Jerry Stackhouse: B-
Jerry Stackhouse may finally be cooling off a big. He only shot 2-6 from 3 tonight, which is much worse than what Nets fans are used to, but still better than what I expected heading into the season. But, of course, he still led the Nets in +/- with a +12. Unbelievable.
After tonight, the Nets will have another two days off before facing the Golden State Warriors at Barclays Center on Friday night. The Nets lost earlier this year on the road at the Warriors. We will have full coverage of that game at FRWD.