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Thunder vs. Brooklyn Nets Game Recap – Nov. 25, 2015

It was a game of runs, a game of undeniable skill, and ultimately, a game of wills.

Things weren’t perfect in the Thunder’s 110-99 home victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, but Head Coach Billy Donovan’s group managed to battle through the variety of ways it was tested and eventually come away with a win.

Despite shooting 52.6 percent from the field, including 10-for-24 from the three-point line, and racking up 26 assists, this game was close from the opening tip until about mid-way through the fourth quarter due to Brooklyn managing to attempt 16 more field goals on the night. The Thunder turned the ball over 19 times, allowed 11 offensive rebounds and gave up 64 points in the paint, but when it got to winning time, none of that mattered.

“We’re working and growing to get better. They’re staying the course,” Donovan said. “Overall, the areas and the things that we’re trying to work on, our guys are concentrating and trying to get better.”

Donovan used a crunch-time lineup of Russell Westbrook, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka to send the Thunder into hyper-drive offensively, while maintaining the speed, length and toughness that was required on the defensive end.

“I thought we had better matchups playing a little bit small tonight, and that’s the way we finished the game,” Donovan said. “They did a great job.”

During the last eight minutes of the game, the Thunder was finally able to break through the slogging, back-and-forth style that had personified the previous 40 minutes of action, evidence of the team’s perseverance.

“We came up with key stops. We battled,” Waiters said. “We had to get stops when it mattered, and that’s what we did down the stretch.”

Watch: Thunder Highlights

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Bang, Bang, Bang

The turning point in this game came during a speedy minute-long span when the Thunder finally said enough was enough and used a furious 11-0 rally to break an 85-all tie and turn it into a 96-85 advantage with six minutes to go in the ball game. It started as Durant walked into a three-pointer, one of five that he would hit on the evening.

“We made shots, we spaced the floor out and we played with a sense of urgency,” Durant said. “They tied the game up and we didn’t want it to come down to the last minute. We did a good job of staying focused and staying with it.”

“I just need a little bit of space,” Durant said of his walk-up threes. “I’ve been working a lot on my shot, trying to make it quicker, being disciplined with my mechanics and fundamentals. My teammates do a great job of screening for me and finding me in transition. It’s on me to knock them down.”

A few possessions later, Durant found Waiters in the right corner, the same place he had previously missed a shot from, but the Thunder leader showed confidence in the young guard and Waiters delivered.

“I missed one and he came right back to me and I was able to knock it down,” Waiters said. “That’s a big thing for this team – trust.”

After the Thunder got a stop on the ensuing possession, Westbrook found a trailing Durant at the top of the key for a three-pointer that he willed into the basket, holding the follow through.

“I feel like at any given time I can go off and make a few,” Durant explained. “They had been looking good all night. I stayed patient with it and was able to knock some down.”

“I always see him and try to find ways to get in space, make the defense collapse on me and then find him,” Westbrook explained of the trailing threes Durant hits in transition.  

That final three by Durant was the exclamation point of the barrage, and sent the home crowd into a frenzy, and gave the Thunder control from there on out.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Putting the Clamps on Joe Johnson

Every NBA team typically has a go-to scorer on the wing and for the Nets that man is Joe Johnson, a seven-time All-Star and long-time NBA veteran. Tonight, the Thunder knew it would have to make sure Johnson didn’t get hot early, and a combination of Roberson, Waiters and Durant, among others, were up to the task.

Roberson set the tone early by locking up Johnson, pressuring him to dribble out precious seconds of the shot clock just to attempt a tough, contested fade-away jumpers. On the night, the Thunder forced Johnson into six turnovers and into 2-for-11 shooting, including a 0-for-5 mark from the three-point line.

“We all did a great job tonight of team defense, being in our loads, discouraging them from driving and the bigs as well in the pick-and-roll coverage,” Roberson explained. “We all did it together. We had a mindset.”

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By the Numbers

0.94 – Points per possession by the Nets thanks to a stout defensive effort by the Thunder that forced 17 turnovers and held Brooklyn to just 3-of-13 from three-point range

26 – Assists on the night for the Thunder, led by Russell Westbrook’s 13, to go with 27 points, six rebounds and five steals

30 – Points for Kevin Durant, including nine in the fourth quarter, on 11-for-18 shooting to go with six rebounds, five assists and three blocks- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Last Word

“We did a good job of sticking together, sticking to the game plan and playing physical throughout the whole game. We had some ups and downs, but for the most part we did a good job.” – point guard Russell Westbrook