With 1.5 seconds left (in regulation), it was over. Heck, with 0.3 seconds left, it still looked over. The Nets were down three and inbounded the ball to Anthony Morrow 25 feet from the bucket and he was forced to heave a contested, awkward 3 to try and tie the game.
And of course, it went in.
At the time, we didn’t know that shot would require nearly an extra hour of real time and three overtime periods to finally get this thing settled. But it did, eventually with the Thunder coming out with a 123-120 win over the Nets.
I’m going to take a quick nap and then I’ll be back to write the rest of this recap. Because I’m worn out. I can’t imagine how the boys in blue feel. Probably a little more tired than me I guess, but that was a workout.
Let’s go at this overtime by overtime. The first, New Jersey scored the first five points and I was convinced it was over. Oklahoma City looked a bit shellshocked that they were even still playing and the Nets were hitting shots. But Jeff Green hit a big jumper and then Russell Westbrook knocked in two more. The Thunder’s defense locked in and we were off to a second overtime.
Again, the Nets make two buckets to start, but the Thunder rips off seven straight to answer, keyed by two buckets by Westbrook and then a 3 from Green. But after that the offense stalled and the Nets took a 3-point lead with 6.2 seconds left. OKC called timeout and I’m thinking Avery Johnson told his guys to foul and not let the 3-pointer get taken. But Green smartly put up the 3 immediately on the catch, possibly anticipating the foul and Stephen Graham hacked Green on a 3. (And it almost freaking went in.) Of course Cool Uncle Jeff sank all 3, forcing a third overtime.
Deep breath. Five more minutes. In the third extra frame, I guess you could say Westbrook stepped up. He scored all 13 of the Thunder’s points, had a huge steal and eventually, led the Thunder to a tough, nasty, gritty victory.
There are so many storylines to this game that it’s really hard to figure out which way to go. There’s Green and Westbrook, who combined for 75 points, which included a career-high 37 from Green. There’s the stellar Thunder defense that forced tough shot after tough shot for the Nets. There’s James Harden, whose 16 points off the bench were extremely key, especially in the fourth quarter where Harden scored a big six points. And of course there’s the fact that the Thunder won in triple overtime without Kevin Durant.
- OKC didn’t turn it over once in the overtimes, but the Nets gave it away four times. Big stat.
- Russell Westbrook scored 19 points after the fourth quarter buzzer. He finished with 38 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and nine assists. I mean come on, one more assist Russ! Geez, were you even trying out there tonight?
- Underrated gold star player of the night is Nenad Krstic. Serge Ibaka fouled out early in the first overtime and Krstic entered with the task to play defense on Brook Lopez. Krstic did a fantastic job inside. He hedged every screen excellently, forced Lopez off the block and never gave any ground. Looking at Krstic’s line, you’d think he did nothing in his 30 minutes (seven points, three rebounds). But he was critical in this win.
- Westbrook was obviously awesome, but I thought his best contribution was his defense on Jordan Farmar late in the game. He denied everything, completely disrupting the Nets offense single-handily. Russ was absolutely everywhere tonight, on both ends.
- Up until Westbrook’s explosion, this night was about Jeff Green. But in classic fashion, Green gave way to a teammate. Uncle Jeff had the 37 points, but was again so clutch late. He went 12-21 from the floor, 4-5 from 3 and 9-9 from the line. I know some will say, “See what happens when he plays small forward!” but I don’t think that had much to do with it. It seemed to me like Green asserted himself more than usual because of KD’s absence. When Green exploded in the third quarter, he was actually playing the 4. Uncle Jeff often slides into his role playing position when he’s playing alongside Russ and KD, but without Durant, Green stepped up in a big way.
- Before he fouled out, Ibaka was really good. Eleven points, six rebounds and four big blocks.
- What in the crap was Jordan Farmar thinking on that last possession?
- The box score says Travis Outlaw was 7-14, but it felt more like 12-14.
- Harden looked better than ever tonight. Early on, he attacked the rim with that look that he was hoping for a whistle. I’m all about getting to the line, but it’s got to happen naturally. You can’t play for it. But after failing to get bailed out by a call at the rim in the third, Harden went back in and finished strong. Then he did it again. Then again. It’s a hurdle he’s got to get over, but when he does and starts finishing, he’ll be a nightly offensive threat.
- Nenad Krstic was 0-4 on jump balls tonight. Twitterer @ThunderSooner and I had the same thought: I kind of think maybe Scott Brooks was using a football strategy and deferring or something.
- Westbrook missed four early free throws but finished by his last five attempts. OKC is a good free throw shooting team, but not just that, they’re a clutch free throw shooting team.
- Remember that time Byron Mullens and D.J. White played? That seems so, so long ago now, doesn’t it?
- Man, Nets fans are truly terrible. I actually think they were asleep for the entire third overtime. This was one of those games where the Thunder had to create their own energy from scratch. They couldn’t even play off a rowdy opposing crowd. It really was almost like playing in an empty arena.
- Westbrook leads the league in yelling loudly. I mean, he screams after doing pretty much anything. Grabbed a rebound? AHHHHHHH. Putback dunk? AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! And-one? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
- You know, we wouldn’t have been in this situation had OKC not been outscored 31-22 in the fourth quarter. Just saying.
Everyone gets a gold star on their backpack for this win. It’s one of those that we could live with had they lost because they were playing without KD, but also because any time you lose a tight game, it’s understandable. But it’s also a really nice win because at so many points did it seem like it would get away. These guys never, ever say die. Like at no point do they think they’re going to lose. That’s a quality that nobody can teach and something every team wishes it had. The Thunder’s 9-1 in games decided by six or less. Three years ago, I remember them being something like 5-26 for the season in that situation. That’s maturity. That’s development.
Next up: Friday in Toronto. Thank goodness for the extra day.