The Nets played two different games today: a competitive one in the first half, and a, well, meager one the rest of the way.
After dropping 41 first-quarter points, Brooklyn largely fell into a rut as Oklahoma City’s offense surged in a 129-116 win. Kevin Durant led the way in his first game back as the Nets fell to 5-6 on the year.
The Thunder entered Sunday’s game averaging 101.9 points, the second-worst mark in the league. They hit that number by the early minutes of the fourth quarter thanks to a third quarter where they out-scored Brooklyn 37-18 and led by as many as 18 points.
Brooklyn led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter and entered halftime with a six-point lead. The team found offensive success through Durant and Caris LeVert but could not register defensive stops as the Thunder broke the game open in the third quarter.
Even with Durant’s return, the Nets sure are missing Kyrie Irving, who missed his third straight game due to personal reasons. There is not a clear floor leader who can execute off the bench, with Landry Shamet especially struggling, leaving a lot on LeVert’s shoulders and allowing the opposition to capitalize. Brooklyn has the depth to help make up for Spencer Dinwiddie’s absence, but it is even more difficult to replace Irving and his floor presence.
The Nets shot 50.6% from the field but especially struggled from three (10-of-34). Meanwhile, Oklahoma City shot a blistering 54.4% and 15-of-39 from three.
Brooklyn’s defense and ball-handling were exploited as the Thunder got into a rhythm the Nets just could not stop. Oklahoma City recorded its top mark for points in a game this season and took advantage of Brooklyn’s sloppiness on offense, forcing 17 turnovers and registering a 21-9 edge in fastbreak points. The Thunder’s bench also outscored Brooklyn’s, 44-30.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander starred for Oklahoma City with 31 points, while Hamidou Diallo added 25. Al Horford also added a three-point threat and anchored the team’s 66 points in the paint.
It is clear: The Nets still have a lot to figure out. Passes were often intercepted as the team was largely out of sync and lacking energy. As Steve Nash said post-game, Brooklyn did not play with “pride.”
The Nets have shown flashes of their ceiling this season, but they need to have answers when teams such as Oklahoma City get hot. The effort — and depth — was just not there, and the Nuggets are next on deck.
Kevin Durant Small Forward
36 PTS, 11-21 FG, 2-7 3PM, 12-15 FT, 11 REB, 4 AST, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 38 MIN
Kevin Durant was shaking the rust off after a three-game absence, but he still scored his highest in a game as a Net.
KD cookin' pic.twitter.com/xtqq3kc3ne
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 11, 2021
Durant started the night a bit slow and missed his first three-pointers, but he found his spots the rest of the way. KD was often the Nets’ lone answer to OKC’s offensive run in the third quarter, looking for any type of momentum.
There is not much more that could have been asked from KD in his first game back, besides perhaps taking a bit better care of the ball. He will be able to focus more on his own game and less on ball-handling when (if?) Kyrie returns to the floor.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
21 PTS, 8-17 FG, 2-6 3PT, 3-3 FT, 4 REB, 6 AST, 2 TO, 36 MIN
Caris LeVert has had a lot to handle as the starting point guard, and he looked confident again at the start of Sunday’s game. (We can watch this highlight all day.)
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 10, 2021
It is becoming clearer, though, that LeVert needs help depth-wise. Nash went to Shamet mainly as the alternate point guard, and that resulted in a poor shooting performance and two turnovers in his 15 minutes.
LeVert did not hit the offensive gear he has in past games, but the loss was due to collective effort. It was still good to see him attacking the paint, which is where he operates best.
Jarrett Allen Center
15 PTS, 6-7 FG, 3-3 FT, 10 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 33 MIN
The Nets did manage to score 55 points in the paint, and Jarrett was part of that early on.
He cooled down a bit offensively as the game went on and the ball-handling got sloppier. Brooklyn out-rebounded the Thunder 49-39, but the Nets’ offensive rebounds were limited to six.
Allen said post-game that Horford, who hit three three-pointers, did a great job of keeping him out of the paint, and that in turn helped lead to OKC’s paint presence. Jarrett has had good performances against talented big men this season, but again, the defensive intensity across the board was not there in the second half.
DeAndre Jordan Center
4 PTS, 2-2 FG, 1 REB, 2 TO, 10 MIN
DeAndre got just 10 minutes on the court and did not use them very productively. He got extended minutes in the loss to the Grizzlies, which may have led to Sunday’s time, but he was one part of a bench that, outside TLC and Taurean Prince, struggled.
Add to that a flagrant, and it was not DeAndre’s best night.
Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot Shooting Guard
12 PTS, 4-6 FG, 3-5 3PT, 1-2 FT, 1 REB, 4 AST, 21 MIN
Kudos to TLC for actually being able to hit from three on a night the Nets shot 29.4% from distance, and he took care of the ball. Brooklyn needed a lot more of that, especially off the bench.