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Kevin Durant’s 36-point double-double not enough as Nets crumble to Thunder, 129-116

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Following a 41-point first quarter, the Nets offense crumbled Sunday as the Thunder hand the Nets their sixth loss of the season, 129- 116. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 5-6 on the season while Oklahoma City improves to 5-4.

With Kevin Durant back in action, Steve Nash busted out a brand-spankin’ new starting lineup of Caris LeVert, ahem, make that Point-Caris, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Jarrett Allen. This was Durant’s first game of the season he moved up a position––from the 4 to the 3––in the starting lineup. Kyrie Irving didn’t play again.

It was the sixth different starting lineup of the season, and Nash argued that “tonight, I felt like I wanted to put our best players in the lineup early so they could play the most minutes.

“It’s hard for a guy to get his minutes when he comes off the bench in both halves. Joe’s been playing great. Caris has been playing great. I just thought, in order to get up to high minutes, you have to start in both halves. Otherwise, it’s hard to do. That was the thinking there.”

The adjustment paid dividends––at least in the eyes of Brooklyn’s scorers––in the first half. Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert thrived next to one another, putting up respective stat-lines 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists, and 15 points, two rebounds, and four assists.

Neither squad could hit the broad side of the barn to kick things off; Brooklyn and Oklahoma City shot a combined 28.9% from three in the first half.

The Nets offense continued to struggle, searching for a consistent rhythm since their 41-point first. Despite Durant continuing to find his spots and converting, the Thunder capitalized off Brooklyn’s mental miscues and rough shooting to outscore the Nets 37-18 on the third.

The same page followed in the fourth. The Thunder’s lead was too much for the Nets to overcome with Nash throwing the white flag and unloading his bench in the final two minutes of play.

Post-game, Steve Nash was not happy. In what was probably his gloomiest presser of the young season, Nash chastised his squad for poor effort across the board.

On his ream’s defense, he noted, “66 points in the paint tonight? 72 points in the second half?” said Nash with disappointment. “That’s just... pride, no matter what defense you’re in, you’ve gotta sit down and guard someone. We didn’t guard tonight.”

Nash continued...

“This is going to be a very unique season. Everyone is getting beat by everybody, and it’s really important we respect our opponents. We got up 15 and we played like we felt the game was over. That’s just gotta change. We gotta learn from it. We gotta toughen up and show a little more pride.”

Aside from a tough loss, Durant led the way with his third double-double of the season - finishing with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in 38 minutes of play.

With his sixth 25+ point performance, Durant matches Deron Williams (2011-12) for the longest streak of 25+ points for a Net. The Nets superstar has also recorded 20+ points in all seven of his games he has appeared in. He only trails Richard Jefferson (2007-08) and Kyrie Irving (2019-20), who did the feat in eight straight games in Nets history.

Allen continued his strong play in his contract year, recording his fifth double-double of the season of 15 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes. LeVert provided a good performance of 21 points, six assists, and four rebounds in 36 minutes.

Nets finished the loss shooting 50.6 percent overall and a rough 29.4 percent from deep, recording 17 turnovers as well.

As for Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way, finishing with 31 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in 35 minutes followed by Hamidou Diallo, who provided a big punch off the bench with 25 points in 24 minutes. The Thunder finished the game shooting 54.4 percent overall and 38.5 percent from deep.

The Film Room

Look, man. This was not the Nets best performance; allowing 129 points to a Thunder team that was pegged as a basement dweller is not exactly a pretty sight. We’ll have (*checks schedule*) pleeeenty of time to digest what went wrong for the Nets on defense this week.

But for now, let’s just appreciate that Kevin Durant is back on the court. It’s glorious stuff.

Chris nailed it on Twitter: guarding Kevin Durant is a tough, borderline unfair assignment for a young player like Darius Bazley.

Kevin Durant cooked him...

Again...

And again...

That right-block was open 24 hours, 7 days a week like a 7/11 store (see what I did there!!!) for Kevin Durant. Notice how Durant uses that first made-jumper, a lightning-quick pull-up with no discernable start-point, to build his scoring repertoire off of. On the next possession, he fakes that super-speedy trigger and takes it straight to the rack. And then on the final bucket, Kevin Durant combines the first two possessions into one: A jab-step... a pump-fake into a drive... and then one-dribble into a fall-away baseline jumper.

By utilizing his offensive weaponry in combination with one another, Durant puts Bazley in an Alcatraz-tight mental jail. What resulted was a jumpy, timid 20-year-old.

The dude is unguardable.

Nash, KD, and Caris sound-off on Brooklyn’s struggles

Steve Nash was pointed in his criticism of the Nets, arguing that Brooklyn played down to its competition and suggested that the Nets didn’t take the opponent seriously.

“You can get beat. You can have a hard time guarding someone. But I didn’t sense the pride. I didn’t sense the competitive fire. I thought it was a lack of respect. We’ve just gotta learn from this and get better.”

Caris LeVert was asked about Nash’s comments regarding the “lack of respect.” Here’s what he had to say...

“I don’t know if I would say that we’re disrespecting our opponent. I think that’s easy to say with the talent on our team. When we don’t win games like this, I think it’s easy to say we didn’t respect our opponent; but I don’t think it was that. I feel like we could’ve played better defensively. I feel like we all love the game, we all respect the game.”

Kevin Durant was asked about underestimating the opponent as well.

“You gotta give credit to these other teams that’s coming in here and playing with a sense of urgency to start,” said Durant. “Guys are making shots; I mean they hit 15 threes tonight.... Just gotta keep plugging away.”

The Nets practice Monday morning. They’ll have plenty of time to diagnose the squad’s problems.

KD continues to leave familiar foe thunderstruck

Heading into Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant has dominated against his former team. In fact, dominating is an understatement.

Since departing the Thunder in 2016, Durant played his former team nine times as a member of the Golden State Warriors. In those nine games, the 32-year-old superstar has averaged 31.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 33.4 minutes per game. On top of his strong numbers, Durant is shooting .528 overall, .452 from deep, and .942 from the charity strike.

In fact, Durant’s 31.4 points per game are the highest ppg vs Oklahoma City/Seattle all-time (minimum five games). Following in Durant’s footsteps are Michael Jordan (29.9), James Harden (28.3), LeBron James (28.1), and Anthony Davis (27.3).

Center Minutes

Jarrett Allen started and played 33 minutes on Sunday, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, shooting 6-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the line. It was the 22-year-old’s fourth double-double in the last five games.

It was also the most minutes Allen played since last August when the Nets lost to the Raptors in the playoffs.

On the other side of the ledger, DeAndre Jordan played only 10 minutes off the bench scoring only four points and grabbing a single board. It’s the second time in the last four games the 32-year-old has played 10 or fewer minutes. He played nine vs. the Jazz.

Meanwhile, Steve Nash has been using Jeff Green at both the 5 and 4. Over the past three games, Green has played 25, 34 and 29 minutes.

Ian Eagle was in his bag

At one point in the first half, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was matched up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Ian Eagle’s reaction?

“Whole lotta names.”

Bird is in playoff mode already... and it’s January.

Kevin Durant talks about his experience on health and safety protocol

Kevin Durant spent seven days on the NBA’s health and safety protocols and was ordered to quarantine on Jan. 4.

Following the Nets loss to the Thunder, Durant spoke about his time on the protocol - noting it as something all players expected coming into the regular season.

“I mean, I wouldn’t say it was a struggle,” Durant said about being put on the league’s health and safety protocols. “Definitely would have loved to be out there with my teammates but with COVID putting us under these circumstances and a lot of guys around the league are on the protocol. It was something we knew coming into the season that may happen so I wasn’t too upset about it. I’m glad I'm back playing though.”

For Durant, he expected to continue to register negative tests throughout the process. He noted he wasn’t around too many people and considering he had it before and has the antibodies, he was confident.

“I didn’t feel like I was going to get COVID again,” Durant said. “I knew I had it before and that I had the antibodies and I didn’t come in contact with too many people. I felt confident that I would have negative tests.

As for how Durant stayed in shape during his quarantine, he lifted weights and used the treadmill.

“I was able to get some work done at the house,” Durant said. “Weights, treadmill, and stuff like that to keep me in shape but it’s nothing like game shape. It’s good to be able to get to practice tomorrow with the guys.”

What’s next

The Nets will host the Denver Nuggets Tuesday, Dec. 12. The game is set to tip-off at 7:30 ET and will be broadcasted on YES Network.

For a different perspective, head on over to Loud City, our Thunder sister site on SBNation.