The past few games, third quarters had killed the Thunder. Over the last three, OKC had been outscored by an average of almost eight points coming out of the locker room. Tonight, a much different story.
The Thunder outscored New Jersey 31-14 in the third, which included a 9-0 run to start the period. That run essentially sealed the deal as OKC went on to handle the Nets 94-85. We thought the Thunder (10-35) would come out intense and hungry after the poor showing in Los Angeles. And they sure did.
Even through a sloppy first half, the Thunder were playing inspired defense. The rotation was great and the effort on the glass was noticeable. The Thunder piled up 12 offensive boards in the first half alone with Nenad Krstic having five to himself. OKC held the Nets (20-25) to just 40 points on 38 percent shooting. Every shot the Nets took had a Thunder player flying in their face, disrupting their shot. Desmond Mason had just eight tonight, but he was especially active on the defensive end. That’s one reason I really like Des – no matter what, he’s playing hard. Every team needs a guy like him. I hope he sticks around.
So the margin wound up being just nine after OKC had led by 30 at one point. The Nets outscored OKC 31-12 in the fourth. Any reason for concern? Here’s all you need to know – Damien Wilkins played nine minutes in the fourth. That should explain it. In other words – no concern, no worry. Let me put it this way: OKC’s starters: +23, +26, +23, +25, +19. OKC’s bench: -13, -11, -10, -1, -19, -17. Yeeeah.
Kevin Durant wasn’t really needed tonight, scoring just 18. Well, he was needed of course, but he didn’t have to pour in 45 minutes and be the man. He played 37 minutes, including three when he was just a token presence on the floor as the clock wound down. But Durant scored nine of his 18 in the third – the point where OKC took the game over. Russell Westbrook was excellent, playing stiff defense on Devin Harris who just had 10 on 4-17 shooting. Westbrook had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists in just 23 minutes. Very nice game for the rook.
A few stats: The Thunder really won this game at the charity stripe, hitting 30-38 from the line. The Nets hit just 13-18 free throws. OKC did work on the boards again, outrebounding New Jersey 52-45. Five Thunder players scored double figures, compared to the Nets whose leading scorer had 18 and nobody else had more than 11.
Oklahoma City has now won three of its last four at home and the Nets, who have been better on the road than at home, drop to 11-11 away from home. But in fairness, this may have felt like a home game for the Nets seeing as about 5,000 people braved the ridiculously icy conditions and gave up another Bedlam Beatdown for the Sooners to make it the Ford tonight.
Oh, and by the way, that’s 10 wins. You know what that means. One day off and then OKC hits the wood again to hopefully get revenge on the Grizzlies Wednesday night. And is it weird that 10-35 looks really, really good to me? That should be weird, right?