Thunder hold off Nets in Brooklyn
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder looked spectacular most of the night even when the ball didn’t go in.
The blowout didn’t last, but their winning streak did.
Durant had 32 points and just missed what could have been the dunk of his career, Russell Westbrook added 25 points and nine assists, and the Thunder held off the Brooklyn Nets 117-111 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory.
Serge Ibaka scored 18 points and Thabo Sefolosha 14 for the Thunder, who revved up the NBA’s No. 1 offense to surpass 100 points in a 10th straight game for the first time in 15 years. They beat the Nets for the seventh consecutive time, but had to work much harder for this win than they have lately.
”It’s a good win, good test for us. We were up, we should have did a better job of playing with the lead, but they’re a good team,” Westbrook said.
Oklahoma City, which had won its last four by an average of 25 points, leads the NBA in victory margin, beating teams by 9.6 points per game. But their 16-point lead was sliced to two down the stretch, even as they shot 60.6 percent for the game.
Deron Williams scored a season-high 33 points for the Nets, who had their six-game home winning streak snapped. They played without starting center Brook Lopez (sprained right foot) and reserve forward Reggie Evans (flu), leaving them without their leading scorer and top rebounder.
They still almost pulled it out after the Thunder threatened to run them off the floor in the first half, but lost their second straight following a five-game winning streak. After falling in Miami on Saturday, they have dropped consecutive contests against last season’s NBA finalists.
”I thought we played them tough today,” Williams said. ”We played tough at the beginning of the first half of the Miami game. So those are two teams that have been together for a couple of years. They’ve won at the highest level and they know how to play together. We’re still trying to figure things out.”
The Thunder hit 21 of their first 30 shots in an offensive clinic by a team that came in averaging an NBA-best 105.1 points – and were feeling so confident that Durant even tried a dunk that left the Barclays Center crowd gasping.
”We made shots,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”Some nights you’re going to make shots. You don’t anticipate shooting 60 percent in this league, there’s too many good defensive teams and they are a good defensive team. We both are and we both had trouble guarding each other tonight.”
Andray Blatche had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Lopez’s place, Joe Johnson scored 17 points, and Kris Humphries had 12 points and 12 boards for the Nets.
The Nets were on their longest home winning streak since late in 2005-06, but weren’t quite sharp in their $1 billion arena, where even the overhead video board had some technical difficulties, resulting in some garbled names in the first half.
The Thunder hit 12 of 18 shots in the first quarter, getting 10 points apiece from Westbrook and Sefolosha, but the Nets stayed right with them behind 12 from Williams and trailed only 31-28 after one.
But the Thunder were just too sharp in the second quarter, even looking good when they missed. Durant launched himself for a dunk from at least 6 feet away, his feet way up near the 6-foot-11 Blatche’s head for an attempt that would have rivaled anything Blake Griffin or Vince Carter has ever thrown down. He missed, throwing the ball hard off the rim, but Blatche was called for a foul and Durant made the free throws.
”I wanted to finish it so bad. I know Dray from him playing in D.C. and that’s where I’m from, so I’ll talk a little trash to him after that one,” Durant said.
Durant said it probably would have been his best dunk in the NBA had it gone down, laughing that he didn’t jump higher because he ”didn’t have no more left in the tank.”
”I think that ignited my team just a tiny bit and I wish I could have made that one, but hopefully I get the next one,” Durant added.
Durant hit all five shots in the period, and the Thunder pulled away with a 16-4 run before taking a 61-48 lead to the half.
They were running away with it when they scored six straight points to make it 73-57 with 8:26 remaining in the third, but then completely forgot to guard the 3-point line. The Nets made five in the final 3:49 of a 38-point period, getting within two before Durant’s basket made it 90-86 heading to the fourth.
”I challenged them a little bit at halftime,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ”I was disappointed with our effort in the first half. We were playing them like we were giving them a little too much respect and I didn’t see the Brooklyn Nets, all right. So they came out and we got it going in the third quarter.”
The Thunder quickly got it back to double digits but the Nets rallied again as Joe Johnson finally got untracked so Williams didn’t have to carry the entire scoring load. His short jumper cut it to two with 2:14 left, but Durant was credited with a basket on a goaltend call against Humphries that stood up after video review. After Williams missed, Sefolosha swooped in to put back a miss to make it 112-106, and Oklahoma City was safe again.
Notes: Oklahoma City wore its alternate third uniforms, which are navy blue with ”Thunder” written vertically along the right side of the chest. … Avery Johnson was the Eastern Conference coach of the month for November. … If the Thunder ended the season with their current scoring margin, it would be the NBA’s largest since Boston won by 10.3 points per game during its 2007-08 championship season.