The Thunder played three quarters of good defense, and that was all it took against a patchwork Nets squad. Oklahoma City overcame Brooklyn 124-105, despite a 40 point first quarter for the Nets spearheaded by Brook Lopez.
As is often the case, Russell Westbrook was the difference in the game. Each time he checks in, I’m amazed at the immediate and tangible impact he has on the game. He was able to get into the meat of the interior at will against the ragtag Nets. When defenders became privy to his strategy, they packed the paint against him. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, that doesn’t work either; Russ was either able to find a man open on the perimeter or finish through the contact just about every time.
Westbrook notched his fourth triple-double of the season, and the 40th of his career. Westbrook finished the night with 30 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds. Donovan praised his efficiency after the game, and for good measure: he made 13 of 21 shots and took just one three-pointer. The Nets packed the paint against him, but Russ took what they gave him and eviscerated them for it.
Victor Oladipo continues to look more comfortable as Westbrook’s running mate as each game goes by. Considering that he was never intended to become the second banana, and although he’s been a non-factor in several games thus far, he seems to be finding a comfortable rhythm as the secondary ballhandler and playmaker. He’s still acclimating himself to his teammates, his system, and his coach, but after just 13 games he’s already proven that he is a vital cog in what the Thunder are trying to accomplish. He scored 26 points on the night, adding five boards and six assists.
Oladipo had a bit of fun after the game impersonating the scrum of media members:
Victor Oladipo giving his best impression of me during Westbrook’s postgame interview pic.twitter.com/TPrUjMsrfd
— Matt Ravis (@mattravis) November 19, 2016
The Nets were a league-wide joke well before they packed their bags for Brooklyn, but mega-billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov hamstrung their financial viability and mortgaged away their future when he tried to acquire an all-star crew that, unfortunately, fell flat on its face. But joke no more: coach Kenny Atkinson has this team of unheralded players playing with energy and life that Brooklyn hasn’t seen in seasons prior. On the back of Brook Lopez–a player who the Thunder have previously tried to acquire–the Brooklyn Nets scrapped their way through four quarters, hanging tight with the Thunder. Unfortunately, they simply weren’t able to extend their prolific shooting beyond the first quarter. Their on their way to becoming competitive, but they’re still reeling from poor decisions made years ago.
The Nets’ Brook Lopez shot phenomenally in the first quarter, netting four three-pointers. Lopez, a player who had only made three three-pointers in his career before this season, has clearly been given the green light by new coach Kenny Atkinson. Early, he appeared to own Steven Adams, but the Thunder front-court were collectively able to shut him down throughout the final three quarters.
The Thunder improve to 8-5, while the Brooklyn Nets fall to 4-8. Next up for the Thunder: Paul George and the Indiana Pacers visit Oklahoma City on Sunday. Tip-off is at 6 P.M.