The Brooklyn Nets are back. In their most impressive win of the season, the Nets went into Oklahoma City and beat the team with both the best home record and the best overall record in the NBA on the road, 110-93. The Nets rode a big 4th quarter rally to win the game after Oklahoma City tied it in the middle of the fourth. The Nets were led by their big 3 tonight: Deron Williams had 19 points and 13 assists, Joe Johnson had 33 points and 5 rebounds and Brook Lopez had 25 points and 5 rebounds. For Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook had 26 and Kevin Durant had 27, but Durant was ejected in the final moments after arguing a call with a referee. It was the first ejection of Kevin Durant’s career.
There is no question that the Nets had their best first half of the season tonight. After one quarter, Brooklyn led 33-19 and was in control of the game. The lead only got bigger in the second quarter and the Nets led by as many as 23 points. However, Oklahoma City chipped away at the lead at the end of the quarter and the Nets only led by 16 at halftime, 61-45. Third quarters this season have been horrific for the Nets and that remained true in this game. OKC got within as few as 3 points in the quarter and the Nets only led by 4 heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was one of the most entertaining of the year so far. All signs pointed to another blown lead and game for Brooklyn. OKC continued to chip away at the lead and finally tied the score at 85 with about 6 minutes remaining. It looked all but over for Brooklyn, who had played so well in the first half. However, the Nets ended the game on a 25-8 run, led by Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. In the fourth quarter, there was a number of questionable calls favoring Brooklyn. After an offensive foul call on the Thunder during OKC’s final push to get back into the game, Kevin Durant received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. After that, many boos were heard from the Oklahoma City fans.
After getting blown out in San Antonio on Monday, this was a humungous win for the Brooklyn Nets. Nobody gave them much of a chance tonight against a team that was 24-6 and 16-2 at home, but the Nets didn’t care and they played like they were the team with the better record. The biggest difference was the attitude of Deron Williams. During the recent Nets struggles, Deron’s body language on the court has been terrible and he has made a lot of excuses, from injuries to confidence. Deron showed lots of confidence tonight and he looked healthy. He also played better defense than I have seen him play all season on Russell Westbrook. Hopefully he will keep this up.
This is the kind of win that can really propel a team to have a big winning streak. Now that December is finally behind the Nets, it is time to move on in the new month and the new year.
For a box score of this game, click here.
Player grades and notes:
Deron Williams: A+
Deron showed up tonight for the first time in a long time and probably had his best effort of the season, especially on defense. Although Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 10 assists, he took many very difficult shots and was harassed all night long by D-Will. This led to 5 big steals for Williams. Offensively, Deron was also very good. He had 19 points and 13 assists with only 2 turnovers. He shot 5-12 from the field, not great, but good enough. In addition to his 13 assists, he had many nice passes that could have turned into assists if players like Kris Humphries could have finished layups. Deron came to play tonight.
Joe Johnson: A+
This was clearly Brooklyn’s Backcourt’s best game of the season, and Joe Johnson was obviously a big part of that. He had a season high 33, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He was 11-19 from the field, 5-10 from 3, and 6-6 from the foul line, all very good numbers. Defensively, he was able to contain Kevin Durant when he was guarding him. JJ made lots of big shots in this game, especially big 3′s when Oklahoma City was clawing their way back into the game. He really earned his contract tonight.
Gerald Wallace: B-
Gerald Wallace did not have much of a role in the offense tonight, but defensively he was very important in stopping Kevin Durant. Although Durant had 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, he only got to the foul line 4 times and he had a very un-Durant-like 5 turnovers. On offense, Wallace only had 6 points and 4 rebounds.
Reggie Evans: C
Reggie was not very important tonight. He started, but only had 1 point and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes. He also had 3 turnovers and got blocked by Serge Ibaka many times. Luckily, the Nets didn’t really need Evans tonight.
Brook Lopez: A
Brook Lopez really needs to play more minutes. In only 29 minutes, Lopez had 25 points and 5 rebounds on 11/17 shooting. The Nets clearly play better when the ball is touching Lopez’s hands, so why isn’t he playing more? He wasn’t in foul trouble tonight at all so that wasn’t the issue. P.J. Carlesimo needs to get Lopez more minutes immediately. He is vital to the Nets’ offense.
Kris Humphries: B
Kris Humphries got more playing time tonight than he has in a long time. In 25 minutes (only 4 minutes less than Lopez), The Hump had 11 points and 7 rebounds. He was 4/10 from the field and 3/4 from the foul line. He still could have finished better on many of his shots which would have allowed him to get and-1 plays. His 7 rebounds helped.
After the Nets’ biggest road win of the season, they will be hoping to avoid a letdown or trap game on Friday when they visit the worst team in the NBA, the Washington Wizards. We will have full coverage of that game here at FRWD.