The most frustrating night of Thunder basketball this season came complete with the first ejection of Kevin Durant's career.
You read that right. Kevin Durant got ejected.
It was that kind of night Wednesday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Oklahoma City started slow, finished poorly and, ultimately, let frustration boil over, all of which allowed the Brooklyn Nets to blindside the Thunder with an unexpected yet thorough 110-93 thumping.
The loss was the Thunder's worst defeat at home since suffering a 21-point drubbing at the hands of Utah on Halloween 2010. The Nets also snapped the Thunder's league-best 12-game home winning streak and dropped OKC to 24-7 one day after it had regained the league's best record.
“They picked us apart,” Durant said.
The lasting image of this long night came when Durant angrily and uncharacteristically barked at referee Dan Crawford and repeatedly waved him off while disputing what Durant perceived to be a no-call with 1:57 left to play. Crawford called a technical foul on Durant for his initial reaction, and then he slapped the three-time scoring champ with a second technical foul, which warrants an automatic ejection, seconds later when Durant continued his expressive protest.
“I said it was a bad call,” Durant said when asked what he said to get tossed. “They got a quick trigger now on techs.
“I think I'm allowed to be frustrated, especially in this league (that's) full of ups and downs. Players are allowed to be frustrated. It is what it is. (I'll) move on from it.”
The entire team was forced to fight frustration in this one.
The Nets, who had been playing such mediocre ball this season that they fired coach Avery Johnson last week, walked into town and torched the Thunder in all respects. Brooklyn (17-15) shot 50 percent from the field, made nine of 17 3-pointers and connected on 25 of 29 free throws.
In the game's first eight minutes, the Nets led 27-11, a margin that would get worse before it got better.
“We did not have our normal defensive presence in the first quarter and they made us pay for it,” said Nick Collison.
The Thunder trailed by as many as 23 and never led after relinquishing a 1-0 lead 50 seconds into the game.
Nets guard Joe Johnson did the bulk of Brooklyn's damage, scoring 20 of his game-high 33 points in the first half and 10 in the fourth quarter to keep a charging OKC squad at bay. Nets center Brook Lopez, who missed the first meeting between these teams, added 25 points on a barrage of mid-range jumpers and drives to the rim. Point guard Deron Williams, meanwhile, orchestrated his team's offense brilliantly, scoring 19 points with 13 assists and only two turnovers.
Williams set the tone with five assists in the first quarter, matching the total the Thunder had as a team in the period, and created one quality shot after another for his teammates.
While the Thunder was a step slow rotating and closing out on shooters defensively, Oklahoma City was out of sync offensively. The Thunder turned the ball over 20 times, leading to 30 Nets points.
“Our turnovers and not contesting shots and not making timely rebounds cost us the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
The Thunder trailed 61-45 at halftime but trimmed that deficit to four heading into the final period after outscoring the Nets 27-15 in the third quarter.
Russell Westbrook scored 11 of his 26 points in the third period and Durant added nine of his team-high 27 points in the frame. OKC held Brooklyn to 6-for-18 shooting in the period and, for a moment, looked like it was headed for another fantastic finish after wrestling away the momentum.
“We turned it up defensively,” Collison said. “We had that extra juice that we needed on every screen action. It was a lot better. The problem is when you get down so much it is tough (to come back).”
Kevin Martin tied the score at 85-all on a 3-pointer off a feed from Westbrook with 7:11 left to play. But the Nets began working their way to the free throw line while the Thunder struggled to generate offense the rest of the way.
The offense grew stagnant after a questionable decision by Brooks to re-insert Kendrick Perkins. After the starting center returned in place of Thabo Sefolosha with 5:58 remaining, the Thunder scored just eight points the rest of the way — the same amount Lopez scored down the stretch despite Brooks subbing Perkins in to slow him down.
“I knew we needed to get some stops with Lopez,” Brooks said when asked why he brought back Perkins. “He had a good game on all of us tonight. It was just a matter of we win a lot of games with Perk and we decided to continue to go with how we win.”