Brook Lopez is clearly not afraid of Thunder. In fact on Sunday night, he was bringing it.
Lopez scored a season-high 31 points (11-of-19), as the Brooklyn Nets took down the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-106 at Barclays Center. The Nets’ big man played big, grabbing 10 boards and standing tall for three blocks, as Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing streak and halted the Thunder’s seven-game run.
“I thought Brook was outstanding,” Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said. “He had a big presence in the paint. We posted him. He had a lot of shots at the rim, got to the foul line. That’s the kind of showing that I’d like to see from him going forward. Be a threat in the post, dominate.”
Lopez led the way for Brooklyn, who never trailed to Oklahoma City, the Western Conference’s third-best team. Bojan Bogdanovic contributed 18 points (7-of-12) while five Nets scored in double-digits.
“We shared the ball much better,” Bogdanovic said. “They tried to double Brook, so it gave us many open looks.”
Lopez said the Nets had a high level of concentration and focus heading into Sunday’s tilt, but also had an effective game plan. Early on, the focus was getting the ball to the paint and driving to the hoop and it showed on the scoresheet; 22 of the Nets 30 points in the first quarter came in the paint. The outliers, a pair of three’s from Donald Sloan and a pair of free throws from Lopez, who picked up the foul by driving to the basket.
“It’s what we felt we had,” Lopez said. “Guys played aggressive and they played with that confidence, that’s what we need to do every day.”
The Thunder eventually wised up to the Nets’ penetration-game, but Brooklyn stayed one step ahead. The Nets bench combined to score 24 points in the second quarter, largely shooting from outside the paint. Shane Larkin led all bench players with eight points in the quarter, while Bogdanovic hit a pair of three-pointers, finishing the quarter with seven points, as the Nets took a 60-52 lead into the half – tying the most points they’d scored in a first half this season.
In the third quarter, the Nets kept the Thunder at bay and extended their lead to as many as 13. Kevin Durant, who finished with a game-high 32 points (11-fo-22), dropped 10 in the third quarter, but Brooklyn preserved their eight-point lead, taking an 85-77 into the fourth.
The Nets continued to stay one step ahead of the Thunder in the fourth, moving the ball and combining hard drives to the rim with kickouts to the outside. The Nets were 3-of-4 from deep in the fourth quarter – Bogdanovic hitting another two – while the Nets had six assists to one turnover in the final period.
“Our guys heeded the message, shared the ball, moving, moving bodies and the floor opened up for us,” Brown said. “Whenever we didn’t have anything like that we were able to go to Brook and get touches around the basket. I enjoyed seeing 116 points. I can’t bank on that every night, but to see that, see that kind of pace, it’s rewarding.”
Offensively, the Nets set a season-high for points in regulation, but defensively, there were things to like from Sunday’s game. Larkin was one of the Nets’ best defenders, his quickness and tenacity adding up to a season-high matching four steals and a pair of blocks. With under a minute to play in the second quarter, Larkin intercepted an inbound, setting the stage for a Thaddeus Young put-back layup, putting the Nets up 60-52 at the half. Wayne Ellington also came up with a key steal on Durant late in the third quarter, which Bogdanovic finished.
“That’s where I can impact the game, use my speed and quickness to make steals or get offensive rebounds,” Larkin said. “Just go out there and play with energy. That’s what I can bring to the team and have to do every night.”
Russell Westbrook finished the game with 27 points (12-of-27) and 11 rebounds. Thaddeus Young had a game-high 14 boards, while recording 14 points for his team-leading 20th double-double.
The Nets return to Barclays Center on Tuesday night, when they host the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.