Even without Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder should not be losing to the Brooklyn Nets. However, foul trouble and the usual blend of bad coaching and some selfish basketball made this one a very close game, resulting in Joe Johnson proving yet again he just might be the best pair of hands to put the ball in with the game on the line.
Johnson hit a 19-foot jumper, beating the buzzer to give the Nets a 95-93 win. Johnson is a perfect 6-of-6 on game-tying or go-ahead field goal attempts in the final 5 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime in the last two seasons. Discussion about most clutch player in the NBA? Over.
The Thunder are too dependent on Durant with Westbrook out of the picture, while Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb might have their good nights, but they’re not close to the consistency level required of them. The Thunder have always struggled with small ball, and the Nets going with a small lineup that has two ball handlers proved to be very difficult for the second best defensive team in the NBA, that struggles when teams force them to think instead of just play and see what happens.
Deron Williams had a lot of fun not seeing Westbrook on the other end, scoring 29 points, hitting 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Williams didn’t have to lead the ball on his own, with both Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston playing next to him in the lineup. He is the team’s most talented offensive player, so there’s no use in him not being a bit more aggressive when it comes to scoring.
I thought we as a team did a great job in keeping the game close and coming up with the big plays, especially in the fourth quarter and down the stretch. Coach drew the play up in the huddle, and the rest is history. We didn’t give in to the team making the run, even though in the third quarter they really pushed the lead. The crowd really got behind them, but the thing is we really stayed together. Hopefully we can build on it.
The big question coming out of this one is if the Nets have something to build on, or was this simply a weird convergence of circumstances. You can’t play small-ball against everyone, and consistency has been one of the weakest points this season for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Livingston. There was some great defense from Livingston on Kevin Durant who almost fouled out of the game, and it was a nice shift and piece of creative coaching from Kidd. How much does he have left?
The Thunder once again come off as an arrogant, lazy-thinking team. Not having Russell Westbrook means that Scott Brooks needs to make adjustments. His version of that is simply giving Kevin Durant more touches on the ball and hope for the best. Not trying to find better use of Reggie Jackson or get Serge Ibaka more involved.
No wonder that when the game ends, Brooks and Durant give out the simplistic answers of we have to play better and we have to do a better job protecting leads. In short? We’re waiting for Russell Westbrook to return, and hope Durant keeps scoring 30+ each night until that happens.