NEWARK, N.J. — It wasn't the prettiest game of ball, but at least this time the Oklahoma City Thunder handled business.
Coming off a loss to the league-worst Washington Wizards, the Thunder had a chance to get back on track against a club with only two more wins. And Oklahoma City did just that against New Jersey, clinching an 84-74 cakewalk at the Prudential Center on Saturday night.
The Thunder led by as many as 17 points and never trailed after Kevin Durant finished a fast break with a tomahawk slam to make it 13-12 with 4:49 remaining in the opening period.
“It was a tough loss for us (at Washington). It was a game I think we should have won,” Durant said. “But tonight, we let that go and we played hard. And our defense was great tonight and we finished it with rebounds.”
The Thunder held the Nets (4-12) to a near decade-low 31 percent shooting from the field. The last time the franchise held an opponent to 31 percent was Dec. 7, 2002, when the Seattle SuperSonics limited Miami to 30.2 percent shooting.
“To hold a team to 30 percent on the road is outstanding,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I thought our guys did a really good job of contesting.”
At halftime, the Thunder held a 48-35 lead, setting an opponent low for points in any half. Before allowing 23 points in the fourth quarter, the Thunder had kept the Nets below 20 points in each of the first three quarters. Still, one game after allowing the Wizards an opponent high of 105 points, the Thunder held New Jersey to an opponent-low 74 points.
“Defensively, this was probably one of our best performances,” Brooks said.
Most impressively, the Thunder hounded New Jersey into 20 missed 3s on 23 attempts. The Nets entered the night leading the league in 3-point attempts at 26 per game.
Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams became the face of that futility after a 14-point performance on 5-for-18 shooting and an 0-for-6 night from beyond the arc.
“I thought our guards did a good job of making their guards take some tough shots,” Brooks said. “We want to keep contesting 3s, and going into this game, we knew that was one of their strengths.”
On this night, the Thunder wasn't much better at putting the ball in the basket. Oklahoma City shot just 41.6 percent and was held to a season low in points.
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 21 points but needed 21 shots. Durant, meanwhile, had 20 points but needed 22 shots. The All-Star duo also combined for nine assists and eight turnovers, as the Thunder finished with more turnovers (19) than assists (13) for the second straight game and the sixth time this season.
“Wow,” said New Jersey coach Avery Johnson. “If somebody would have told me that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have scored 84 points on 41 percent shooting, I would think in my mind that we would score 95. This is really disappointing because we couldn't make shots tonight.”
The Thunder made up for its poor shooting — which included a 4-for-17 clip from 3-point range — by capitalizing off the Nets' mistakes. OKC turned 18 New Jersey turnovers into 22 points. A whopping 18 of those points off turnovers came by halftime, when the Thunder used 12 Nets giveaways to help build its 13-point cushion at the break.
“That was our best offense tonight,” said Westbrook, “getting stops and getting out in transition. We struggled a little bit in the halfcourt, but we get a day or two to figure that out before the next game.”