Despite snowstorm Stella slamming the East Coast with a couple feet of snow, there was basketball to be played at the Barclays Center Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Nets were unable to earn the first two game win streak of the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, losing 122-104. Russell Westbrook was a different kind of storm, falling one point and two assists short of a double-double in the very first quarter en route to yet another triple-double in what has been a historic season for the Thunder guard.
Though Westbrook was still mostly brilliant (his 19 assists was the same the Nets had as a team), he had an off-night by his standards. It was instead strong play by the Thunder bench, including double digit scoring outputs from Enes Kanter and Alex Abrines, that gave OKC the edge Tuesday night. The Nets bench never got going against the Thunder. Trevor Booker fell off after a strong start in the first quarter while Spencer Dinwiddie had a rough night from the field (0-4). Isaih Whitehead had a couple of highlights, including a few “cyclone” spins leading to lay-ups, but was overall not as effective as he has been, shooting just 2-7.
The story of this game was the lack of production outside of the 3 L’s of Lin, Lopez and LeVert. When the bench was playing, the team was unable to get anything going offensively and largely struggled defending the Thunder’s bench scorers. A 29-21 third quarter saw OKC take an 8-point lead into the final frame after the Nets played the Thunder to a 62-62 tie at halftime. However, the team’s late game execution, or lack thereof, reared its ugly head as the team fell to loss #54 on the season.
It’s clear that the Nets could use a few pieces to bolster this second unit but with a windfall of cash to spend and the salary cap rising for the second consecutive season, Brooklyn should be able to complement the 3 L’s with free agent signings in addition to their two first round draft picks.
The Nets will look to get back on the winning track as they visit the Garden on Thursday to take on the Knicks. Brooklyn could tie the season series with New York if they can notch win #13 on Thursday.
The stats: 16 PTs, 4-5 FG, 7-8 FT, 5 REB, 2 AST
LeVert had himself a first half to remember, with 12 points on 4-4 shooting. The highlight of the game (and for LeVert’s season for that matter) was a sequence in the second quarter that saw LeVert steal the ball and finish with an emphatic one handed jam in transition. LeVert also had several flashy layups in the first hand but his improvement on the defensive end should have fans smiling ear to ear knowing he should be an entertaining and productive staple in Kenny Atkinson’s rotation for the short and long haul.
The stats: 25 PTs, 9-14 FG, 3-6 3FG, 5 REB
Brook Lopez had another stellar offensive effort but, like LeVert, was surprisingly stout on the defensive end as well. Brook continued to stroke the 3-ball well, continuing an absolutely amazing trend of Lopez taking–and making–multiple 3-pointers a game this season. It isn’t known whether or not Lopez will be with the Nets at the start of next season but it would be a shame to see another team benefit from Lopez becoming a legitimate stretch-5 under Kenny Atkinson.