Brooklyn Nets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Takeaways & Player Grades

Nov 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In the Brooklyn Nets‘ final game of their five-game road trip, the Nets took on Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here are our takeaways & grades from the matchup.

After back-to-back losses in Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Nets traveled to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. Oklahoma City, as expected, got off to a quick start offensively. The Nets tasked their best defender, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, with the assignment of covering star guard Russell Westbrook.

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In the early going, the Nets focused on containing Westbrook, as he scored eight points and dished out four assists in the first quarter. Midway through the first quarter, the Nets led 20-16 thanks to 11 early points from Brook Lopez. For the Nets to have a chance, they’d need a big performance from Lopez, and he delivered in the first quarter by putting up 14 points. It was part of an outstanding first quarter for the Nets offense, which scored 40 points — their highest total in any quarter this season — and shot 59 percent from the field. At the end of the first quarter, the Nets led 40-34.

The Nets continued to hold the lead even once Westbrook re-entered the game in the second quarter. In his first 10 minutes on the floor, Justin Hamilton scored 10 points, thanks in part to two three-pointers. Brooklyn led by 10 at the six-minute mark of the second quarter. The Thunder, thanks to Westbrook’s ability to score and create for others as well, have such a potent offense. The Nets would have to continue their rapid scoring pace in order to outlast Oklahoma City.

Westbrook went on an 8-0 run by himself, which cut into the Nets’ lead and brought the Thunder within three. With 1:40 left in the first half, the Thunder took a 62-60 lead. The Nets, as many teams do, ran into problems defensively with Westbrook on the floor. Westbrook’s speed, vision, passing, and ability to finish at the rim make him one of the toughest players in the NBA to defend. At halftime, the Thunder led 64-61 after going on a 21-8 run. Westbrook ended the half with 20 points. Lopez led the Nets with 16 points in the first half.

The Thunder controlled the lead in the third quarter. Oklahoma City got out to a 10 point lead, 76-66, which forced the Nets to take a timeout. At the 5:23 mark of the third quarter, Westbrook got his 10th rebound, which gave him a triple-double: 22 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. The Nets hung around in the third quarter, but Oklahoma City still held a steady lead. At the end of three quarters, the Thunder led 96-82.

The Nets needed to mount a comeback if they were going to knock off the Thunder. However, Brooklyn was facing quite a deficit. The Nets, once down 16, cut the Thunder’s lead to 10 with 8:05 remaining. With six minutes remaining, Anthony Bennett hit a three-pointer to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to nine. However, on the ensuing possession, Westbrook sprinted right down the floor and laid the ball off the glass to push the lead back to 11. Whenever the Nets got within anything which resembled striking distance, Westbrook and the Thunder would distance themselves once again.

Led by Westbrook, the Thunder cruised for the majority of the fourth quarter. Westbrook finished with 30 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, as the Thunder beat the Nets 124-105. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 22 points, in what was ultimately Brooklyn’s third straight loss.

Nov 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) drives to the basket agaist Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Takeaways

1. The Nets got off to a hot start

While the Nets ultimately fizzled offensively against a very good Thunder team, Brooklyn did get off to a great start offensively. The Nets are still a team that is trying to build a winning culture. Great teams can start hot and continue that pace throughout games to pull off wins. That’s not to say 40 points each quarter is expected, but after such a spectacular start, the Nets struggled. After the 40-point first quarter, Brooklyn scored 21 points in both the second and third quarters, and 23 points in the fourth quarter. Yes, the Nets lost, but their hot start on the road facing a talent such as Westbrook was encouraging. The next step in the development of the Nets will be to keep pace throughout the entirety of these types of games.

2. Brook Lopez did his part

For the Nets to have any chance against the Thunder, they needed a big performance from Brook Lopez. Lopez came out and scored 14 points in the first quarter, and totaled 22 points on the night to lead the Nets. Unfortunately, Lopez’s 22 points were enough to get the Nets a victory, but Lopez is not the reason the Nets lost this game. Lopez is the Nets’ best player, and on nights when the Nets face superstars, they need Lopez to play like their best player. He did just that on Friday night, as he made four three-pointers and shot 50 percent from the field.

3. Russell Westbrook is unstoppable

Is this a surprise? Absolutely not. Still, though, the Nets saw firsthand on Friday night just how difficult it is to guard Russell Westbrook. Much of the talk when Kevin Durant left the Thunder was how steep the franchise would fall. However, Westbrook has the Thunder sitting at 8-5 through 11 games. Durant’s departure means teams focus even more on Westbrook. In theory, this gives teams a chance to slow Westbrook down. But realistically, it just means he’ll make the smart basketball play and find the open man if needed. Westbrook can score from anywhere on the floor, but his 13 assists should serve as evidence that he’s more than willing to pass the ball when the opportunity presents itself. While it’s early in the season, Westbrook is putting up MVP numbers, and he led the Thunder to a win on Friday.

Nov 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots the ball agains tBrooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Player of the Game:

Brook Lopez

C, Brooklyn Nets

A

Brook Lopez played a team-high 28 minutes (tied for the team lead with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) and Lopez put up 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. What’s even more impressive, is not that Lopez shot 50 percent from the field, but the fact that seven of those 16 attempts were from beyond the arc. Lopez hit 4-of-7 from three-point range, good for 12 of his 22 points. The Nets have given Lopez the green light to shoot three’s this season, and he has gone all-in with his effort. Lopez played well, but unfortunately the Nets couldn’t slow the Thunder offense.

Wildcard:

Bojan Bogdanovic

SF/SG, Brooklyn Nets

B+

This spot could have went to a few different players on Friday night. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 13 points, but shot just 3-of-14 from the field. Anthony Bennett surprised off the bench with 12 points, including two three-pointers. But this spot will go to Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic scored 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting. He made his only three-point attempt, and, while it’s not the focus of his game, he pulled down three rebounds as well. As we’ve seen at times on this road trip, Bogdanovic has the potential to be “player of the game” on any given night. He played well on Friday despite the loss.

Up your game, please:

Randy Foye

PG/SG, Brooklyn Nets

C-

Randy Foye got his first start of the season on Friday night, starting in place of Sean Kilpatrick, who had been starting in place of the injured Jeremy Lin. The Nets used Kilpatrick off the bench against the Thunder, and gave Foye the start. Foye did not play well. He shot the ball just three times, making just one shot for a total of two points. Foye hasn’t necessarily been known as a scorer throughout his career, but getting two points from a starter puts the Nets in a tough spot. Kenny Atkinson tried to remedy the situation, as both Yogi Ferrell and Isaiah Whitehead played more minutes than Foye. Foye is a solid veteran, and he’s better than his performance on Friday night. Still, though, the Nets needed more from the starting point guard against the Thunder.

With the loss, Brooklyn has now dropped three in a row. The Nets now sit at 4-8 on the season. Brooklyn has Saturday off, and will return home to face Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

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