Final Score: Thunder 123, Nets 120
Points: Westbrook 38, Green 37, Lopez 28, Farmar 28
Rebounds: Westbrook 15, Kris Humphries 15
Assists: Westbrook 9, Farmar 9
There are probably a half dozen ways I could attempt to dissect tonight’s game. The Thunder were without Durant, and the Nets were without Devin Harris. Point-wise, it was probably a wash. As a result, we expected the Thunder to play a certain way (See: Boston Celtics). We didn’t quite get that defensive effort. What we got instead was a thoroughly enjoyable game to watch.
“I thought we had the game won a lot and I thought we lost it a lot” – Coach Brooks
And for at least this one night, I’m going to separate myself somewhat from my vested interest in the Thunder as a team, and simply remark on what an amazing game it was to the unbiased viewer. The game started off in a ho-hum fashion. The Thunder looked impatient and anxious to try to dominate the lesser Nets, and as a result fell behind early. Then in the 2nd quarter, the Thunder started to show some patience and began to assert themselves, cutting the halftime lead to a manageable deficit of five points. After they took the lead in the 3rd heading into the 4th, I thought that if they just continued apace, the win, inglamorous as it may be, would be in their hands.
From about mid-4th quarter on though, the Nets suddenly found shot-makers, and Jeff Green, playing the Kevin Durant role perfectly, barely got any touches until the very end of the 4th. The game, once thought to be slipping away, was now within their grasp as Westbrook hit two free throws to put them up by three with 1.5 seconds left. And then, the dreaded debate reared its ugly head again.
Do you foul the shooter?
They didn’t, and the Nets’ Anthony Morrow hit a prayer at the buzzer to send it into OT, and that’s when the REAL game began.
I can’t even re-create everything that happened. All I know is that there were so many peaks and valleys within the next 15 game minutes, that I had to step back and just say, “this is simply a wonderful game to watch.” And incredibly, a multitude of players on both sides began to elevate their games. Five point leads felt like 10 point leads, and then in the blink of an eye we were tied again. Lopez continued to bang inside while Farmar kept finding spots to shoot, and a number of times it seemed like the Nets had it in the bag. But then the Thunder dug a little deeper, got one more stop, hit one more jumper, and away we went again.
It was like the rising and falling of the waves, with two teams dancing with each other atop the crest. It was everything basketball is meant to be – fluid and flowing, rarely one step getting too far ahead of the other. Most times when games reach into the multiple overtimes, it becomes a war of attrition. Not tonight. Tonight the game elevated the players, and the players, the game.
Eventually it had to end, and I’m glad it did with the Thunder securing the win. Game 19 of the regular season isn’t supposed to be fraught with drama, but sometimes, in an instant, the energy of the game can capture even the most weary of players and jaded of fans.
But if you must know, I do have a few points of critique:
- Jeff Green was a tremendous offensive weapon tonight. Everything he got came within the flow of the offense. He was extremely efficient. Why then were not more plays drawn up for him in the 4th quarter, when the team collapsed offensively?
- I know that Westbrook was the man in the 3 OT’s, but I have to say the overall guard-play was really sub-par tonight. Through 4 quarters, I probably could have been talked into agreeing that Harden was the most effective guard in the game. Westbrook was missing a bunch of inside shots he normally makes, Sefolosha could not repeat his strong shooting performance, and Maynor was awful.
- Free throws have saved the Thunder all year, and in this game nearly let them down.
Even so, what a beautiful game, this basketball.
Next game: Friday, December 3 at Toronto Raptors, 7:00PM EST tip-off.