Nets shock Thunder as Joe Johnson scores 33
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The deejay at Chesapeake Energy Arena threw on a ton of catchy rap tunes throughout the game. Maybe he should have settled on the "Twilight Zone" theme instead.
It was that kind of crazy night.
Playing against the team with the NBA's second-best home record, in an unparalleled hostile environment, the Nets earned their most impressive victory of the season Wednesday night. They led nearly wire to wire and closed out the Thunder with a 23-5 surge late in the fourth quarter for a surprising 110-93 win. It was their first victory over a team with a .500 or better record since they took down the Celtics on Nov. 28.
The Nets (17-15) kept their poise even when Oklahoma City (24-7) stormed all the way back from a 23-point first-half deficit to tie it at 85 with 7:11 to play. The Nets hit 20 of 21 free throws in the final quarter alone, refusing to let this one slip away as so many others have. It was only the third loss for the Thunder in 19 home games.
"We wanted to come out of the gate and really prove something, kind of a new slate for the New Year," said center Brook Lopez, who had a monster game with 25 points, hitting some clutch buckets down the stretch. "We wanted to come out together and make a little statement against these guys."
Even Deron Williams finally looked more like his old self. After searching for ways to get his mojo back, he brilliantly engineered the Nets' attack. Williams had extra pep in his step, pushed the ball, directed traffic confidently and effectively maneuvered into the lane more than he had virtually all season.
Williams had 19 points, 13 assists and a season-high five steals, and his backcourt mate Joe Johnson was sensational, getting 20 of his game-high 33 points in the first half.
"I felt a little bit better today," Williams said. "I got really warmed up in here in the training room and came out and felt good, and just really tried to push the ball. Even when they scored, I was just kind of yelling at the bigs, telling them to take it out so we can just run and get into a flow instead of walking the ball up and passing it around, not playing our game."
So what exactly got into the Nets? They all pointed to a grueling one-hour session that interim coach P.J. Carlesimo put them through a day earlier.
"P.J. jumped on us about a lot of things, especially offensively," Johnson said. "[Keeping] the ball moving, defensively helping one another, and to be honest, it helped. It translated into the game because we were in spots defensively that we hadn't been in in a while.
"We were talking, communicating, the ball was moving great, guys were getting wide- open shots and it just kind of played into our hands tonight."
Defensively, they didn't make it easy for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to get going. The duo totaled 53 points, but they had to work for most of their shots, and Durant's frustration boiled over with 1:57 left. He was slapped with two technicals and ejected, the first time that's happened in his six-season career.
"They picked us apart," said Durant, who had 27 points. "They were making threes, hitting jumpers and they were hot."
Said Williams: "Hopefully, we realize this is how we can play every night and how we should play."