The fact that the Thunder’s normally rowdy crowd was kept away by icy weather didn’t keep the team from putting together one of its most impressive wins.
Kevin Durant scored nine of his 18 points in the decisive third quarter, and the Thunder enjoyed big advantages at the free throw line and on the boards to beat the New Jersey Nets 94-85 Monday night in front of just 5,000 fans.
Russell Westbrook had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Jeff Green scored 13 for the Thunder. Oklahoma City took 38 free throws, 20 more than the Nets, and outrebounded the opponent for the eighth time in nine games.
“We played aggressive and were able to build a nice lead and keep that lead for most of the game,” said Desmond Mason, who helped keep Vince Carter in check. “There are some learning things that we have to go through but we got the win.”
The Thunder estimated the crowd at 5,000, well below the 18,000-plus who had attended the first 23 home games.
Those who stayed to the end got a bit antsy when the Nets turned a flurry of Thunder turnovers and missed shots into points at the other end, twice cutting a lead that reached 30 points to seven in the final minute. Durant was even reinserted late to help the Thunder hold on.
“The guys that finished up the game represented the Nets and New Jersey with pride,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “They busted their tails.”
And the frontline players?
“There’s no excuse for lack of effort,” he said. “You can’t disrespect the game in term of the effort it takes.”
Rookie Brook Lopez, who had a career-high 31 points in the first meeting, scored 18 for the Nets. Carter, averaging 21.6 points per game, had just eight on 2-of-12 shooting. Devin Harris (21.8) scored 10 and was 4-of-17.
“I don’t know what it was,” Harris said. “Maybe it was just a four-game road trip and maybe we just looked forward to going home. I’m not going to say we overlooked them but we came out slacking and they came out with tons of energy.”
Oklahoma City started the third period with a 14-2 run to take a 65-42 lead and cause Frank to use two timeouts. New Jersey made just one field goal in the first eight minutes of the period as the Thunder took their largest lead of the season.
Durant had averaged 31 points in the previous five games, including a career-high 46 in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. He started slowly against the Nets before helping the Thunder break the game open in the third.
“We had a big lead at halftime and we just wanted to come out and get some stops,” Durant said. “We did and we executed on the offensive end.”
The Nets trailed 32-31 after a shot inside by Josh Boone 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. But they turned it over three straight times after that as Oklahoma City went on a 10-2 run to take a 42-33 lead.
Five straight points brought New Jersey to 42-38 before the Thunder closed the half with a 9-2 spurt, seven of those points coming at the free throw line where Oklahoma City was 17-of-20 in the first half compared with just 3-of-4 for New Jersey.
Both teams shot only 38 percent from the field in the first half. But the Thunder used their big edge at the free throw line and on the backboards to take control. Led by Nenad Krstic and Chris Wilcox underneath, Oklahoma City outrebounded the Nets 34-22 in the first half.