It wasn't gonna lost forever. For the second time this month, the Toronto Raptors broke Brooklyn's five game winning streak, this time in a 104-103 win in Brooklyn. The Nets are a few games behind and have a chance to get some payback when the Raptors come back to Brooklyn on March 10. This game is the first of a back-to-back that will take them to Indiana to play the Pacers on Saturday night.
Visiting the Barclays Center this Friday night are the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's been another excellent season for Oklahoma and they find themselves at the top of the Western Conference even with All Star point guard Russell Westbrook sidelined with a knee injury. They've also won nine straight games, including impressive road wins in Houston, San Antonio and Miami. The Thunder will be looking to avenge their 95-93 loss to the Nets on January 2.
The season so far
What's the story with these teams? Check the numbers:
Offensive Rebounding percentage
Free throw rate
Effective Field Goal percentage
Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage
Deron Williams might be making his return to the starting five on Friday. Williams has been running the second unit pretty well since his return, one bad play at the end of the last game excluded. When he does get back, his playmaking ability and Shaun Livingston's length and consistently solid play this season should make for a solid backcourt tandem for the Nets.
As expected, Paul Pierce bounced back from his game in Boston. He scored 33 points and hit seven threes in Monday's loss. There have been times where he's carried the offense, and while he may do it again, don't bet on him matching Durant point for point. Assisting Pierce will be All Star Joe Johnson (this will come up a lot on Saturday). Johnson's play has improved each month & has averaged 16 points a game on a true shooting percentage of 56.2. OKC's three point defense has been great, so Pierce & Johnson might look to spend the evening in the post. The only problem is that Sefalosha & Durant have the size and length to make it tough.
The past two weeks have been really good for Andray Blatche. He's averaged 17 points a game during that time span and has picked up two double-doubles along the way. Most importantly for Blatche, he hasn't been turning the ball over during this stretch. Outside of the game against the Hawks when he turned it over five times, he's only coughed it up twice.
Everyone knows about Durant (much more on him in a moment), but Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson deserve some mention as well. Jackson has been a decent stand in Westbrook's absence, averaging 14 points and five assists in 31 minutes a night. However, he's only shooting 42 percent from the floor and the team is 13 points better per 100 possessions when he comes off the bench compared to when he starts. As for Ibaka, he's been having a solid year overall. He's averaging close to 15 points and nine rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the floor. His shot is a bit worse compared to last season, but he's still been highly productive. He's shooting 69 percent inside the restricted area, but more importantly, he's converted on 46 percent of his jumpers. Combine this with his defense & you've got a good case for Ibaka deserving a spot on the All Star team.
Defensively, the Thunder have been one of the league's best. They allow teams to score only 99.1 points per 100 possessions, good for third best in the Association. Their length has helped them defending all the areas of the court. They rank Top five in restricted area defense (57.2 percent), mid range defense (37.9 opponent field goal percentage), in the lane (34.9 percent) and from behind the three point line (34.1 percent). Ibaka and Thabo Sefalosha are two of the better defenders at their respective positions in the league. Teams take over nine shots a game at the rim against Ibaka, but are only shooting 43.7 percent. Along with that, he blocks 2.5 shots a night. As for Thabo, he usually draws the opponent's best perimeter player & he'll probably get Joe Johnson to start the game.
The rest of the Thunder aren't slouches either. Jeremy Lamb has made the most of Westbrook's absence & is showing some of the potential that made him a lottery pick. Steven Adams has a foul problem but has played well all things considered. Perry Jones doesn't play much but is a talented young player. Nick Collison has been around close to a decade & is still a productive player.
Player to watch: Kevin Durant
Durant is in the middle of one of the best scoring runs in recent NBA history. Durant has scored at least 30 points in 12 straight games, including 34 against Miami on Wednesday night. He's won the scoring title four times over the past five seasons and is on pace to do it again. Durant is averaging 31.5 points a game on a True Shooting percentage of 64.5 percent, good for third best in the league. And when you take into account how many possessions he has to use and the lack of viable options after him with Westbrook down, it's even more impressive. What's the best way to describe his recent stretch of amazing play? Drew Garrison over at the mothership has the honors:
Durant's teammates haven't been able to replace Westbrook. Instead, they've barely managed to match him. Reggie Jackson and the rest of the Thunder have assisted Durant on 31.1 percent of his shot attempts combined -- the exact percentage Westbrook was creating for him on his own. Durant's therefore shouldering a huge burden, but steamrolling through the road block. Durant has raised his shooting percentage and assists while also lowering his turnovers per game, despite being the primary focus of opponents and handling the ball more. He's attempting more field goals and free throws per game and his true shooting percentage has actually gone up in Westbrook's absence. No one should be surprised his scoring numbers have seen a bump, but improving his efficiency along the way is a testament to how unstoppable Durant has been.
The Nets perimeter defenders are gonna have a hell of a time trying to slow Durant down. Kirilenko is hobbled by a calf injury and if he does play will be at a severe disadvantage. Shaun Livingston is the team's tallest wing player standing at 6'7 so he figures to be guarding him for large portions of the game. He's quick and athletic & if it helps, he did a decent job guarding LeBron James earlier in the month. However, Durant's game is very different from James' so that might not be of much help. If the Nets can keep him under 30 points, it'll be a successful evening.
From the Vault
Head on back and see the first playoff win for the Thunder.
More reading: Welcome to Loud City
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Oklahoma City Thunder Game Notes - Oklahoma City Thunder
- Thunder-Nets Preview - Jason Einhorn - STATS LLC
- Nets will have to use swarming defense to stop OKC's Kevin Durant - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Nets’ No. 1 goal: Contain Kevin Durant - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Nets look to cool KD's hot hand - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Starting Five: D-ing up on KD - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Up next: Thunder at Nets - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets' No. 1 goal is stopping Durant - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Andrei Kirilenko misses second straight practice, questionable against Thunder - SNY Nets
- OKC at BKN Preview – Dynamic Thunder Faces Hot Nets Squad - Oklahoma City Thunder