Despite the cold weather in Brooklyn, the Thunder remain hot as they beat the Nets, 122 – 104

BOX SCORE

There was some initial uncertainty as to whether this game between OKC and Brooklyn would actually take place tonight.  A Nor’easter hit New York, and the city was excepted to get heavy amounts of snow.

But, early in the afternoon the NBA announced that both the Knicks and Nets home games would be played tonight, and it was probably for the best.  The Thunder had already traveled to Brooklyn and the way the Nets scheduled is structured, there wasn’t really anyway to make this game up without the Nets playing a back to back to back at some point later in the season.

And, although the weather may have been cold outside, both teams came out hot in the first quarter.  The Thunder shot 63.6% from the field, while the Nets shot a scorching 68.6%.  For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was dropping dimes all over the court, finishing the quarter with 8 assists!  Most of these found their way into the hands of Taj Gibson, making his 3rd consecutive start for the Thunder, who scored 11 points in the quarter on 5 of 7 shooting.  Taj was able to get great position, making Russ’ job on the entry pass extremely easy.  They also had this nice connection for an alley-oop:

Russ added 9 of his own as Nets’ guards Jeremy Lin and Spencer Dinwiddie could do little to stop him for getting in the lane.  The Thunder also had help from Adams (4) and Abrines (4) in the quarter.

However, on the other side of the ball, the story wasn’t so pretty.  Andre Roberson got three early fouls and Billy D was forced to sit him down.  Now, the Thunder weren’t playing great D in the short time Dre was on the floor, but losing your best defender isn’t going to do you any favors.  The Thunder allowed Nets’ rookie, Caris LeVert, and Jeremy Lin to do pretty much whatever they wanted with the basketball.  Along with LeVert and Lin, Brook Lopez, as he did against the Thunder earlier this season, was able to score as he pleased, finishing with 9.  Add on 9 points from Trevor Booker (including a buzzer beater 3) and the Nets and Thunder were tied after one, 32 – 32.

In the second quarter, the defensive struggles continued for the Thunder.  Without Roberson, the Thunder had no answer for Jeremy Lin or Isiah Whitehead.  The two combined for 11 in the quarter.  Brook Lopez also continued scoring at will, adding 10 more to his 7 first quarter points to finish the half with 17.  The Nets were able to use Lopez’s range to draw the Thunder bigs away from the basket and attack the paint.

Luckily, the Thunder were able to keep up the pace on offense thanks to four more points and three more assists from Westbrook and 7 points from Victor Oladipo.  Another big key to the Thunder’s second quarter offense was Enes Kanter.  He struggled to get going at first, but he eventually wore down the Nets’ big men and used his incredible footwork down low, along with his mid-range jumper to score 9 in the quarter.

The Thunder went into the locker room tied with Nets, 62 – 62.

The third quarter brought the return of Dre and the return of the Thunder defense.  The Thunder, who had given up 32 in the first and 30 in the second, were able to hold Brooklyn to 21 in the 3rd.  The Thunder kept mistakes to a minimum and shut down pretty much everyone on the Nets except one man… former Thunder guard Randy Foye.  Yes, you are reading that correctly, Randy Foye went off for 10 points in the quarter on 3 of 3 shooting (2 of 2 from deep).

For the Thunder, Russ had 7 and got some solid play from the Thunder bench unit, led by Abrines with 6.  The Thunder headed into the final frame with an 8-point lead, 91 – 83.

In the fourth, Russ added on 6 more assists to bring is total to 19 for the game along with grabbing his 10th rebound to notch his 33rd triple double on the season.  This is also his third game in a row with a triple double.  The Nets weren’t able to get anyone going outside of Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez, and the Thunder extended their lead from the third quarter, as they went onto win this one handily, 122 -104.

For the Thunder, Russ finished with 25 points (6 of 18 shooting), 19 assists and 12 rebounds.  He had offensive help from 5 other Thunder players who scored in double-figures: Oladipo (21, 3 of 4 from distance), Kanter (17 and 5), Gibson (17), Abrines (13) and Adams (11).

For the Nets, Lopez finished with 25 points and 6 rebounds, and Lin had 24 of his own.  Caris LeVert (16) and Randy Foye (13) were the only other players in double figures.  The Nets bench only combined for 20, which is less than half of their season average of 45.2 ppg.

Notes:

  • The Thunder avoided their 5th straight loss to a team below .500 with their win over the Nets tonight.
  • Although the Nets have the worst record in the NBA, they have been playing better as of late. Jeremy Lin’s return from injury has a lot to do with their improved performance on the offensive end.  Without Lin, the Nets lacked a true playmaker who they could rely on to settle them down and that they could look to in late game situations.  In addition, individual Nets’ players have been bolstered by Lin’s return.  For example, Sean Kilpatrick has been averaging 17 points a game, almost 4 ppg above his season average, since his starting point man has returned.
  • That being said, Lin did not look great on the defensive end. He was guarding future MVP Russell Westbrook, so you have to cut him some slack, but he’s never been much of a defender and I’m sure that hamstring is still bothering him.
  • On the other end, Russ didn’t play very well on D either early in the game as Lin was pretty much doing whatever he wanted on the offensive end.
  • Brian Davis pointing out Roberson’s aggressive play…

  • Brook Lopez 3-point shooting is simply incredible. The fact that he can score in the post, hit the mid-range jumper and take you out to the arc makes him extremely difficult to guard at the 5-spot.  It also allows him, as I mentioned above, to pull an opposing team’s big man (and usually their rim protector) away from the basket and opens up driving lanes.
  • Interesting fact, he’s taken 302 of his 333 career 3-point attempts this season.
  • Nets were chanting “MVP” on Russ’ first free throw attempts. You could clearly hear it on the broadcast.  Thought that was pretty cool.

  • Victor Oladipo is shooting so well in his return from injury. He’s now 13 of 19 (68%) from behind the arc.  I know that isn’t sustainable, but man has it been a huge plus for a team that has struggled all year from outside.
  • Also, he’s been playing well all-around since he’s been back in the lineup.
  • I really like Caris LeVert. He had stretches tonight where he would disappear on offense and have some mental lapses on defense, but I think he’s going to be a solid player for the Nets.  He’s 6’7 and can handle the ball extremely well.  He setup the offense on several occasions tonight and looked really comfortable doing it.  I thought he should’ve got more minutes since he was playing so well.  He played a little over his season average, but he sat for a long stretch of about 13 minutes between the third and fourth quarters.
  • Brook, Lin, and LeVert combined for 41 points in the first half on 73% shooting from the field.
  • Kanter, Abrines, McDermott, Sabonis and Semaj was an interesting lineup.
  • Sean Kilpatrick left the game in the first half and didn’t return due to a sore hamstring.
  • Foye went 3 of 3 from deep tonight. He shot 31% from 3 for the Thunder in 2015…
  • This was pretty cool:

  • The Thunder were +14 in the rebounding battle including 13(!) offensive boards.
  • Thunder didn’t shoot well from the charity stripe going 24-34. That’s good for 71%, several percentage points below their season average of 75%.
  • Overall thought they had a great shooting night. 50.6% from the field, including 45.5% from 3.
  • This:

  • Russ is now 8 triple-doubles behind the Big O’s single-season record.
  • Around the NBA: Larry Sanders made his debut with Cleveland tonight.  Great to see him make his way back into the NBA.

Next Up: At Toronto at 6pm CST on Thursday