BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Kevin Durant was making his Brooklyn debut.
Russell Westbrook was going head-to-head with Deron Williams in a thrilling matchup of All-Star point guards.
And yet it was Thabo Sefolosha who stepped up on this big stage and saved the day, providing the most pivotal play of the night to help the Thunder secure a 117-111 win against the Nets on Tuesday night in a wildly entertaining affair inside the new Barclays Center.
Sefolosha did some of everything throughout the night. He scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished one assist and blocked one shot. But it was his final rebound that lifted the Thunder to its sixth straight win and 14th in the past 16 games.
The Nets, playing without starting center Brook Lopez and energizer Reggie Evans, had fought their way back from a 16-point, third-quarter deficit to pull within two in the final three minutes. Oklahoma City's offense, which had virtually been unstoppable all night, had hit a snag in the final six minutes.
The Thunder led by four with 54 seconds remaining and needed a bucket to put Brooklyn away.
Westbrook missed a 3.
But Sefolosha came from the left corner, scooped up the ricochet and scored a layup to push the lead to six.
“I saw him shoot, and basically the ball bounced on the rim and came toward me,” Sefolosha said. “So I just had to step in and get the rebound.”
It was the second of only two offensive rebounds the Thunder snagged all night. Brooklyn hauled in 16.
“It was key,” said Westbrook, who scored 25 points with nine assists. “I should have made the shot, for one. But Thabo's been great all year just hustling and he did a good job of getting the rebound.”
The Thunder moved to 15-4 and can now look forward to a five-game home stand, which starts Friday against the rival Los Angeles Lakers.
On Tuesday night, though, the Thunder continued its streak with a sizzling performance that wowed a building with hundreds of locals who showed up rooting for Oklahoma City. The Thunder shot a season-high 60.6 percent and got a team-high 32 points from Durant.
But the first quarter belonged to Westbrook and Williams, as each point guard attempted to one-up the other, making the matchup as good as expected.
Williams scored 12 in the period, making 4-of-6 shots, including two incredibly difficult and contested 3-pointers. Westbrook, meanwhile, worked his way to the rim, making four of his five shots in the quarter from six feet and in.
Despite their theatrics, Westbrook and Williams canceled each other out in the quarter and the Thunder led by just three entering the second period.
Oklahoma City pulled away midway through the second quarter, using a 16-6 run to turn a 45-42 lead into a 13-point margin at halftime. Defense was the catalyst, as the Thunder held the Nets to 3-for-12 shooting while forcing two turnovers in those final six minutes.
But the offense was on point, too. So much so that the Thunder went into the locker room shooting 65.7 percent, the best percentage Oklahoma City has shot in a first half since March 25 against Miami. The Thunder made six of nine shots in the final six minutes of the second period, five of the makes coming off assists.
The Thunder led by as many as 16 in the third quarter, taking a 73-57 lead with 8:27 left in the period. Williams, however, wouldn't let his team get blown out at home, where the Nets were 7-1 coming into the game and seeking their best start since 2002-03. Williams scored 13 points in the period, 10 coming after OKC built its 16-point lead. His aggressiveness sparked a Nets rally that trimmed the Thunder's lead to two late in the quarter.
Still, OKC held on to take a four-point lead into the final frame. The Thunder's 90 points through three quarters were one shy of the average Brooklyn had yielded on the year.
“We hung on,” Brooks said. “You've got to give them credit. They were missing two of their better players, but we played well enough to win.”