clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nets close out road trip in OKC vs. Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v LA Clippers Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Do what you do. The Brooklyn Nets almost tricked it off against the New Orleans Pelicans on the road Friday night, but they got their act together late and held on for a much needed victory. Tonight marks the end of their season long six game road trip and they’ll be heading back to the clays once this one wraps up. Gotta finish strong

The opponent tonight will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC is one of the youngest teams in the NBA and weren’t expected to compete. However, things have been looking up recently in the Sooner State. They beat the Sacramento Kings in the final seconds on Friday night to push their winning streak to four games. They already have two wins against the Lakers. It doesn’t get any easier after this as the Miami Heat will be waiting for them tomorrow night as the second leg of a back-to-back.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN FM on radio. Tip off after 7.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton is out. Paul Millsap and Day’ron Sharpe are both out due to personal reasons. Kyrie Irving remains unvaxxed and unavailable.

Nothing doing for OKC.

The game

James Harden is on it. The Beard put together another banner performance on Friday as he tallied season highs in points (39) and three pointers made (six). Harden has progressively improved as the season has gone on and now that he’s getting downhill more frequently, it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on opposing defenses. For the Nets to stay in title contention, they need Harden to be the best version of himself and it looks like the former MVP is on his way there.

Old playoff nemesis Lu Dort figures to get the Harden assignment. Dort often gets the toughest matchups on the other side and has some offensive bounce as well.

In an alternate timeline, Derrick Favors would have been a New Jersey Net for longer than four months and probably not traded. However, in this one, he’s a reliable veteran big for a young team and Deron Williams will be fighting Frank Gore on pay per view next month. This life thing funny as hell, boy.

Joe Harris is on his game. He’s shot 40 percent or better from deep in six out of the last seven games and now that he’s got his groove back, it gives the Nets a much needed shot in the arm. As a team, OKC allows 39 three pointers a night, fifth highest in the league. Harris has helped the Nets to a league best 39 percent from deep, and if the Nets can spring him open from deep, he’ll make it happen from downtown. On offense, the Thunder have only made 30.3 percent of their three point attempts, third lowest in the NBA. If they’re not careful, Brooklyn can put them away early from deep.

We get to say hello to another lottery pick! Josh Giddey was taken sixth overall in the 2021 Draft and has been pretty decent thus far.

Young teams always have a little extra bounce, so the Nets have to be careful not to take OKC for granted. With this being the final game of a solid road trip, a win would have the team feeling great as they head home and a showcase matchup on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors. Don’t peek ahead when you have business to take care of here first.

Player to watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The next great Thunder star is here. SGA is just outside the top 20 in scoring as his 22.5 points per game is leading the team to a better than expected start. His shot profile is a bit different this year as he’s taking more threes and taking a lot fewer shots at the rim. He’s taken a career low 20 percent of his shots inside of three feet and naturally, his free throws attempted are down from last season. Even with that, he’s the guy to lead the next generation of Oklahoma basketball. J.D Tailor of Welcome to Loud City has more:

Shai carried the Thunder last season and he has only gotten better. Gilgeous-Alexander is now even more potent in isolation situations. Gilgeous-Alexander has mastered the sidestep three and developed a wicked little step-back jumper. Both of these moves allow him to find space whenever the defense is attempting to pressure him.

As Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder continue to grow, they might find themselves back in the playoff race sooner than we know it.

Time tends to heal all wounds, you would think. This is KD’s first game in OKC as a member of the Nets. He was due to play there last year, but he got a rest day that night. It’s been five years since he left the Thunder for new adventures, and the reception was always hostile when he came back. Now that he’s out of the West and in Brooklyn, we’ll see if his former fans are in a more friendly mood.

Putting that aside, Durant will look to keep up the amazing pace he’s been on. He’s crossed the 20 point mark in every game this season and most impressively, has shot 50 percent or better from the field 11 times in the team’s 13 games. Durant is the perfect offensive player and his ability to score over and around anybody you put in front of him separates him from the rest of the pack. Another masterclass at his old stomping grounds in advance of a marquee game would be the perfect way to close out the road trip.

From the Vault

The good ole days. In fact, this will be the first time Kevin Durant and James Harden will play against the team that drafted them in nine years.

More reading: Welcome to Loud City