Brooklyn Nets 108-109 OKC Thunder: Three Takeaways

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Nets (18-30) were this close to sealing their first season sweep of the Thunder (27-20) since the 2014-15 season, but couldn’t withstand a fourth quarter surge by Oklahoma City in a 109-108 defeat.

Spurred on by a playoff atmosphere at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the home team outscored its visitors 35-23 in the final 12 minutes of the game. Brooklyn led by as many 15 points and had a 13-point lead towards the end of the third, yet turnovers and defensive lapses proved costly in the fourth quarter.

 “We gave up 35 points in the fourth quarter and made a ton of mistakes,” Kenny Atkinson said after the game. “I loved our competitive spirit throughout the game – how we defended – but I thought in the fourth quarter, we made some fundamental mistakes.”

Joe Harris led the Nets with 19 points, shooting 70 percent including 5-for-5 on three-pointers. Russell Westbrook paced the hosts with 32 points, six assists and five rebounds.

It was another heartbreaking close defeat for the Nets, who now lead the league in clutch games (games decided in the final five minutes) played at 32. Despite the result, there were some positives that Atkinson and his team can build on as they travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks (24-22) on Friday.

Here’s Three Observations:

Paul George, Raymond Felton and Turnovers Hurt Nets

Westbrook hit the game-winning shot, but George was the player of the game for the Thunder.

The star small forward clearly had a point to prove after being snubbed from the NBA All-Star game after the reserves were announced earlier on Tuesday. He finished the game with 28 points and nine rebounds on 45 percent shooting. His 10-point third quarter is a big reason why the Thunder’s deficit remained under 15 points heading into the fourth quarter as the Nets were fighting to keep the lead they built in the first half. But he wasn’t the only standout for the Thunder in the second half.

Oklahoma City reserve Felton erupted in the fourth quarter, going 4-for-4 (2-for-2 from behind-the-arc) to score 10 in the quarter. He also dished out four assists. His production was back-breaking for the Nets, who were doing a good job in containing Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony for most of the game.

While those two players’ offensive production were pivotal for the Thunder, the Nets didn’t help themselves as they had another bad game with turnovers. They gave away the ball 14 times, which the hosts converted into 13 points. Atkinson revealed at Tuesday’s shootaround that he wanted Brooklyn to improve in that area and he harped on it again after the defeat.

“That’s the growth process that we’re talking about -- the team that makes the least mistakes wins,” Atkinson said. “We just gave them too many, we broke down too much in that fourth quarter. It’s hard to win by giving up 35 points in the fourth quarter.”

The Harris Show

Harris was borderline unstoppable at times as he stunned the OKC crowd on several occasions throughout the game. As mentioned earlier, Harris was perfect from behind-the-arc and is making a late case to be considered for the NBA’s Three-Point Shooting Contest. A key member of Brooklyn’s bench, Harris is shooting over 50 percent (26-of-49) on three-pointers in January.

Spencer Dinwiddie has justifiably received plenty of praise for his marked-improvement this season, but Harris is a close second in the amount of progress made from last season. Harris was once worried about his NBA future after having a season ending injury in the 2015-16 season and being waived after being traded from Cleveland to Orlando. His breakout performances in this campaign show that he’s not only a valuable NBA player, but a significant contributor in Brooklyn.

Jarrett Allen Makes An Impact on Both Sides of the Floor

Allen had a career-high in rebounds with 11, but that wasn’t the only area where the rookie center made an impact. The 19-year-old was all over the floor, making key plays on both sides of the ball. Allen only had one block, but his strong presence around the rim was undeniable as he changed the shots of several players.

Playing in front of a raucous crowd, Allen continued to show his poise and secured his first-career double-double as he also had 12 points. Allen’s importance could be seen in Atkinson’s decision to give him extended minutes in the fourth quarter.