Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
OKLAHOMA CITY —
The Brooklyn Nets gave up a huge lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Wednesday night’s game, but made enough plays down the stretch to hold on for a road win over the team with the best record in the NBA.
The Nets won the game 110-93, and improved to 17-15 this season. Oklahoma City’s record dropped to 24-7, and the Thunder’s 12-game home winning streak was broken.
Brooklyn, coming off a 5-11 December, needed a recovery win after losing 104-73 to the San Antonio Spurs on New Year’s Eve.
“The bounce-back is incredible,” Nets head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “To play as poorly as we played, and we really didn’t want to go hard yesterday but they gave us a great hour of practice, and they responded to that.”
Carlesimo said before the game he didn’t want to get into the kind of run-and-gun game the two teams played in early December, when the Thunder beat the Nets 117-111 in Brooklyn, and the Nets succeeded in keeping Oklahoma City under 100 points and limiting the Thunder to 15 fast break points.
“They did a really good job trying not to foul Kevin [Durant] and Russell [Westbrook], trying to get out to 3-point shooters, and trying to get back in transition, and they did that for 48 minutes,” Carlesimo said.
Joe Johnson was the game’s leading scorer with 33 points. Kevin Durant scored 27 to lead the Thunder in the losing effort.
Durant was assessed two technical fouls and ejected from the game after protesting a foul call with 1:57 to play, with the game already out of reach for the Thunder. It was the first time in his career to be ejected from a game.
“They’ve got a quick trigger now,” Durant said of the referees. “I think I’m allowed to be frustrated, especially in this league. You feel the ups and downs; players are allowed to be frustrated. It is what is.”
Brooklyn shot 29 free throws, compared to 17 for Oklahoma City, and the Thunder was called for 10 more personal fouls in the game.
Deron Williams won the battle between two of the top point guards in the league, although he was outscored by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, 25-19. Williams had 13 assists, and Westbrook had 11.
Brook Lopez was a consistent inside threat for the Nets, and he scored 25 points on 11 for 17 shooting, adding five rebounds.
The Nets controlled the first half of the game, starting on an 11-3 run and taking a 61-45 lead into the halftime locker room.
Oklahoma City stormed back in the third quarter, beginning with the first play, when Westbrook stole the ball and scored a layup.
Westbrook scored 11 points in the third quarter and Durant had nine, and the Thunder outscored the Nets 27-15 in the period to pull within four going into the final quarter.
The Thunder tied the game at 85 on a 3-pointer by Kevin Martin with 7:10 left in the game, but couldn’t stop Johnson and company consistently enough to ever take the lead.
“We had 20 turnovers,” Brooks said. “Not only did we turn the ball over, we didn’t get back and get a stop when we did make a mistake. We lost the game tonight because we didn’t play well enough to win.
The Nets were in the bonus by the mid-point of the fourth quarter, and made Oklahoma City pay by making its free throws, extending the lead again and maintaining for the rest of the game.
The Nets will play the Washington Wizards at 6 p.m. Friday night on the road, while the Thunder is scheduled to host the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 p.m. Friday.