Newark, NJ – For those NBA fans that enjoy low scoring affairs, Saturday night’s contest between the New Jersey Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder was a real dozy.
With the exception of Thunder guard Daequan Cook, no player on either roster shot above 50 percent from the field in OKC’s 84-74 win at the Prudential Center.
With many a fan wearing the blue and orange of Oklahoma City, the Thunder made themselves feel right at home as Kevin Durant survived a tough shooting night from the field (9 of 22) for a double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds. Starting guard Russell Westbrook shoot an eerily similar 9 of 21 from the floor, but made the big shots when they mattered most for his game-high 21 points.
There was not a stutter-step, no-look pass or ankle-breaking dribble that Westbrook did not employ at least one time on various Nets defenders, as he continually found ways to get off shots and feed his teammates in the final five minutes of regulation.
“Nothing to prove, we just wanted to get back to winning,” said Westbrook after the Thunder fell to worst team in the NBA, the Washington Wizards in their last outing.
In a game that the Thunder once held a comfortable 17-point lead during the third quarter, the Nets played dumb, finding ways to chip and crack the deficit down to 10 points, outscoring OKC 23-21 in the final quarter.
Shooting 31 percent from the field, New Jersey was unable to break the scoring wall of KD and Westbrook, further troubled by their inability to convert from downtown (3 of 23), despite being one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league.
“They contested shots, we contested shots, but to hold a team to 31 pecent on the road is outstanding,” said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
The backcourt duo of Deron Williams and MarShon Brooks combined for 28 points, but only seven assists, as New Jersey sorely missed the instant offense of injured center Brook Lopez.
“I don’t like this arena one bit,” Nets guard Deron Williams said. “But it’s a good thing it’s not our arena after this year.”
The Nets, who will move into the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn next season, are shooting 38 percent at home this in six games while their opponents are at 48.8.
“Even last year it didn’t feel like our home arena,” said Williams on the Prudential Center that was originally built for the New Jersey Devils hockey team and the Seton Hall Pirates college basketball program. Williams, who came to New Jersey during last seasons’ February trade deadline went on to comment, “It just doesn’t feel like it [is our home arena]…It’s just not a good visual. The depth perception’s not there."
New Jersey forward Kris Humphries attempted to alleviate the Nets shooting drought by nabbing a game-high 16 boards (six offensive), but shot 6 of 17. Nets ace Anthony Morrow was also off target, making 2 of 13 attempts.
The Thunder simply outplayed the Nets in too many categories to lose the ballgame, be it on the glass where they out-rebounded New Jersey, 55-46, on the run with 15 points or in the paint (42-34).
The Nets did have the play of the game though, when Humphries started a fast break with a behind the back dribble to elude a defender, then passing it off to Brooks in a two on one situation. Brooks proceeded by faking a two-hand floor pass, by deftly fluttering an over the back pass of his own, to a parallel Humphries for a one-handed slam down.
Both Durant and Thunder center Nick Collison (four points, three rebounds) thanked all the fans who made the 1, 445 mile trip out to downtown Newark, as well as to all of the local fans for their support Saturday night. “It was great to see all those fans here tonight, they came a long way for a win,” said a smiling Durant.
“I remember our first season in Oklahoma, when we weren’t as good and didn’t draw, so it was great, definitely a change to see them all out there, and I know a lot of that has to do with Kevin and Russell, and us winning and I’m happy to be a part of it,” added Collison.