For one half, the Nets went toe-to-toe with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder as each of the first two periods ended with the score tied. But a third-quarter meltdown when Westbrook was resting took the Nets out of it, and they even lost a chance to prevent yet another triple-double by Westbrook when he grabbed his 10th rebound with 4:41 left in a 122-104 victory by Oklahoma City on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
The 13,911 fans who braved the aftermath of a severe winter snowstorm to attend were treated to an entertaining game, and it was clear many were there to see and cheer Westbrook. They chanted “MVP” several times when he was at the foul line, and a big roar went up when he got the rebound he needed for his 33rd triple-double of the season.
“Being from New York, I think New York fans appreciate guys that give it all they’ve got and play hard and with a fire, passion and intensity,” said Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan, a Long Island native. “It certainly was a nice gesture by these fans to acknowledge him in that way.”
Westbrook said he wondered what the crowd was screaming about. “It caught me off guard, but it’s just a blessing to be able to hear that, especially on the road,” Westbrook said. “It’s very humbling.”
The Nets did their best to make it hard on a player who is averaging a triple-double for the season by holding him to 6-of-18 shooting and 25 points, which is six below his season average. He compensated with 12 rebounds and 19 assists to get other teammates involved.
Nets point guard Jeremy Lin often was the primary defender, and coach Kenny Atkinson said, “I thought Jeremy, in particular, really competed. Our philosophy was to let other players beat us. Westbrook had 19 assists. Credit to him for taking what we gave him.”
Lin added, “As a competitor, you love these matchups. You want to see where you stack up, and he had a great game. He picked us apart, made a lot of great reads.”
The Thunder (38-29) also got 21 points from Victor Oladipo, 17 from Taj Gibson and 17 off the bench from Enes Kanter. Oklahoma City had a 20-9 edge in second-chance points.
Brook Lopez led the Nets (12-54) with 25 points, and they got a season-high 24 from Lin, 16 from Caris LeVert and 13 from Randy Foye. The Nets shot 50.0 percent from three-point range (12 of 24).
At halftime, the Nets were tied with the Thunder at 62 after shooting 57.5 percent overall, including 70.0 percent from three-point range (7 of 10). Although the Nets trailed by 10 in the second period, Lopez, Lin and LeVert combined to score the Nets’ final 12 points of the half to forge the tie.
But the Nets’ bench let down after scoring at least 50 points in nine of their previous 10 games. Losing high-scoring Sean Kilpatrick in the second period with what was described as a hamstring pull hurt as the Nets’ bench was outscored, 41-20.
Asked how much they missed Kilpatrick, backup forward Trevor Booker said, “A lot. With him out, somebody had to pick it up, and we really didn’t have that tonight.”
In the third quarter while Westbrook rested, Alex Abrines (13 points) came off the Thunder bench to make three three-pointers during a 15-5 run that helped Oklahoma City build an 87-78 lead, and the Nets never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We didn’t get the production we’ve been getting,” Atkinson said of his bench. “They’ve been great lately. It’s hard to get down on them. But they didn’t come with the requisite energy. [The Thunder] was double-teaming our pick-and-roll. Our guards had a hard time handling it.”