Kevin Durant, are you not entertained?
The day after Thanksgiving, the Nets fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder while Durant dropped 30 points with relative ease, including two back-to-back above the break three-pointers to seal the result. Then, just like that, after sticking with a Western Conference for 43 minutes, it was erased in moments by Durant.
Later, Lionel Hollins’ analysis of it basically amounted to a shrug — saying, in so many words: we are who we are and who we are is not Kevin Durant. Many were rustled by his statements, but maybe his defeatist attitudes were simply just ahead of his time.
Before tonight’s game, interim head coach Tony Brown offered a bit more, suggesting that the Nets’ best chances of stopping Durant involved building a giant wall and attempting to keep him out of the paint. The results were not much better as forward poured in a 32/10/7 line.
Maybe, then, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
However, Brook Lopez, who scored just 8 points against the Jazz on Friday, came out possessed and salivating at the tasty match-up with Nick Collison and Enes Kanter, scoring 14 first-half points on 6-9 shooting. But with Durant and Westbrook lurking, there were hints that he wouldn’t be able to go toe-to-toe alone for the full 48 minutes.
This time, he got help.
A rejuvenated Nets side went into halftime with a lead, despite playing a Shane Larkin, Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev, Willie Reed, and Andrea Bargnani set for five minutes that has struggled all season, even shooting 76% in the process.
Ultimately, this game had a bit of everything — threes, steals, hustle plays — and, dare I say it, the Nets made basketball enjoyable again. The Nets took an impressive 8-point edge into the fourth quarter after a nice no-look dish by Wayne Ellington on a fastbreak following a Durant turnover — yes, all those words are correct and in the right order, I promise.
Typically, if Durant and Westbrook combine for 50+ points (59), the Thunder have a remarkably great chance of winning the game — but, tonight, it wasn’t enough. From Lopez’s fade-away post moves to Bogdanovic in flames from behind the arc, the Nets’ all-around team effort was something to marvel at.
Brooklyn’s paper-mache rotation held together for once and the results were palpable. Brown is clearly still testing what works and what doesn’t — but tonight is a strong indication that things might be headed in the right direction. In fact, this might very well be their best effort since their win in Miami almost a month ago against the Heat.
Why stop there? This is, unequivocally, Brooklyn’s best win of the 2015-2016 season. There, I said it.
Maybe, then, a little effort is worth everything.
The stats: 31 PTS, 11-19 FG%, 10 RBS, 3 BLKS, 1 TO
Brook Lopez must not have liked being compared to a short-lived desert from Dairy Queen.
After flopping against the Jazz, Lopez was a man on a mission tonight for Brooklyn. Without the Thunder’s best defensive center, Steven Adams, in the mix, Lopez mostly toyed with Nick Collison and Enes Kanter in the first half.
The good vibes kept cruising for the Nets through the second half as Lopez continued to bully down-low. And, in Lopez’s daily submission to the Circus Shot Hall of Fame, somehow pulled off this over-the-backboard bucket:
Brook Lopez from behind the basket https://t.co/PgvLx1QH6f
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 25, 2016
Never leave us, Brook.
(Thanks for the Vine, Anthony!)