Thunder 129, Nets 116: Kevin Durant Returns With Season-High 36 Points

The Brooklyn Nets welcomed back Kevin Durant on Sunday night, and a fast start fueled by Durant and Caris LeVert made it look like a very welcome return in the early going. But a hot-shooting start for Brooklyn faded across the board, and the Nets had equal issues on the defensive end in a 129-116 loss to the Oklahoma City at Barclays Center.

The Nets jumped out to a 41-point first quarter and led by 15 early in the second, but the Thunder wiped out that lead before halftime. Even though Brooklyn moved back into a six-point lead at the break, momentum belonged to OKC and the Thunder broke things open in the second half.

“I feel like we just had a lot of turnovers in a row,” said Jarrett Allen. “We were just throwing the ball carelessly. We stopped playing defense a little bit, we weren't as locked in. You could see it towards the end of the first quarter, probably that last minute, and then the beginning of the second quarter, they just came out playing their game. So that little instant, that's when we let them have it.”

Even though the Nets still shot 50.6 percent overall for the game, that number was powered by a 16-for-23, 69.6 percent first quarter. They shot 43.5 percent the rest of the way, and 29.4 percent from 3-point range for the game.

“I don’t think we did a good enough job trying to play for each other offensively,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “Too many quick shots, not enough attacking. We’ve got to get back to work tomorrow and try to figure out how we can generate opportunities for one another instead of too many no-pass possessions.”

Meanwhile, the Thunder, who came into the game ranked 27th in the NBA in field goal percentage, shot 54.4 percent overall, and even hit 16-of-17 from the free throw line, where they had been struggling as well.

“We've got to lock into our man and play one-on-one defense,” said LeVert, “but we also have to know the schemes because they're slipping out of screens, they're setting the screens and were switching certain matchups and we’re just not locked in on that end of the floor right now.”

Durant scored a season-high 36 points in 37 minutes after missing the last three games, shooting 11-for-20 from the field and 12-for-15 from the line, adding 11 rebounds to register a double-double.

Allen also had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and LeVert scored 21 points with six assists. Taurean Prince added 11 points and Joe Harris had 10.

Quick starts from LeVert and Durant had the Nets up 28-18 late in the first quarter after Durant scored the final six points of a 10-0 run. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot came off the bench for a 3-pointer and two assists as the Nets closed the first quarter leading 41-29, and when Luwawu-Cabarrot dished again to Prince for a 3-pointer to open the second quarter, the Nets were up 44-29.

But Oklahoma City answered with nine straight points, and that turned out to be just the start of a 19-4 run that brought the Thunder within 49-48 with 4:26 to go in the half as the Nets opened up the second quarter shooting 3-for-12.

OKC drew even at 51 on an Al Horford 3-pointer, but the Nets outscored the Thunder 12-6 into halftime for a 63-57 lead. They were still up 74-69 five minutes into the second half, but the Thunder bounced back into the lead with a 15-2 run and eventually closed the third quarter with a 10-0 run, outscoring the Nets 25-7 over the final 6:30 to take a 94-81 lead into the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma City continued in scoring seven of the first nine points of the fourth quarter to push its lead to 18 points, 101-83.

“You can get beat,” said Nash. “You can have a hard time guarding someone, but I didn’t sense the pride. I didn’t sense the competitive fire in the second half. I thought it was a lack of respect. We’ve just got to learn from this and get better.”