Brooklyn Nets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Takeaways & Player Grades
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.
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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.
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.
Player of the Game:
C, Brooklyn Nets
SF/SG, Brooklyn Nets
Up your game, please:
PG/SG, Brooklyn Nets
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.