Jeff Green’s best offensive performance of the season was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the opening quarter. And when they splashed through the net, without so much as grazing the rim, you knew it would be Green’s night.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Thunder.
Playing its first game without injured leading bench scorer James Harden, Oklahoma City used a season-high 27 points from Green to continue New Jersey’s misery with a 104-102 win over the worst team in basketball.
Green scored 20 points in the first half and made 11 of 16 shots on an array of 3-pointers, mid-range shots and driving layups in 41 minutes. His third 3-pointer, a high-arching shot from the right wing that rattled around before dropping with 2:03 left in the third period, put the Thunder up 80-64, its largest lead of the night, and gave Green his 27, one better than a Dec. 13 outing against Cleveland.
"I thought Jeff gave us the early lift that we needed,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He shot the ball well and we were finding him.”
With Harden out two to four weeks with a strained right hamstring, the Thunder must now find consistent offensive production from someone in order to replace the rookie’s 10 points and two assists per night. And Green looks like the leading candidate.
The third-year forward is coming off a season-best 16.9 points per game in 11 February games in which he shot 48.3 percent from the field and a season-high 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Entering Friday’s game, though, Green’s scoring had slipped to just 11.2 points on 41.5 percent shooting in five games this month.
"He knew James wasn’t going to give us that punch off the bench in scoring,” said Kevin Durant.