Rucker Park is in Harlem. The new Barclays Center is in Brooklyn. When the Thunder played the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 4, the two courts seemed to swap locations. The Thunder outlasted the Nets 117-111 that night as two of the NBA’s hottest teams at the time came out firing.
“They came out blazin’,” recalled three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant. “It was a fun game. The atmosphere in the Barclays (was) like Rucker Park basketball in there. It was fun to play in that type of game.” Born in Washington D.C., Durant has played Rucker Park just once in his life and made the most of it, exploding for 66 points in the Entertainers Basketball Classic on Aug. 1, 2011.
The Nets and Thunder meet for the final time this season tonight at 7 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The teams have headed in opposite directions since they last met. OKC has won 12 straight at The Peake and owns the NBA’s best record at 24-6. Brooklyn is 16-15, has lost 11 of its last 16 games and last Thursday fired coach Avery Johnson, replacing him with former Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo.
The Nets are 13-2 against teams with losing records and 3-13 against teams with winning records, but they certainly didn’t flinch in their previous meeting against the Thunder. Brooklyn shot 60 percent from the field (12 for 20) and scored 38 points in the third quarter to trail 90-86 entering the fourth quarter. OKC responded by shooting 63.6 percent (7 for 11) from the floor in the final period and scratched out a hard-fought victory.
The Thunder shot 60 percent from the floor (40 for 66), 50 percent from 3-point range (7 for 14) and 88.2 percent (30 for 34) from the free-throw line, yet still scrambled hard to post the win. OKC’s biggest downfall was rebounding. Brooklyn outrebounded the Thunder 40-33 and had an unfathomable 16-2 advantage at the offensive end despite not having its top two offensive rebounders in center Brook Lopez and power forward Reggie Evans due to injuries. This resulted in the Nets outscoring the Thunder 18-2 in second-chance points. However, OKC’s two points came on a Thabo Sefolosha layup with 36.6 seconds left that helped seal the victory.
Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams finished with 33 points and seven assists in the first meeting. Kris Humphries (12 points and 12 rebounds) and Andray Blatche (19 and 11) had double-doubles and every Nets starter scored in double-digits. Durant finished with 32 points on 16 shots while Russell Westbrook added 25 points, nine assists and three steals. Serge Ibaka had 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Sefolosha added 14 points and shot 6 for 8 from the field.
“It was a great offensive game on both teams,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Deron Williams just had a terrific offensive game. Russell did, Kevin did. Gerald Wallace (14 points; 4 for 7 on 3-pointers) did for them. We both were making 3s. We both were playing very well. There wasn’t a whole lot of defense. We’re going to have to play defense tonight, we’re going to have to rebound because they can get offensive rebounds and extra possessions. Wallace was a thorn in our side last game.”
Wallace (knee) returns for the Nets after missing Monday’s loss at San Antonio. Jerry Stackhouse (hamstring) is out while C.J. Watson (hip) will be a game-time decision. Meanwhile, the Thunder is the only team in the NBA to have the same starting lineup all season.
- John Rohde