By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– It seems every time Oklahoma City takes the court this season, they find themselves facing a former member of the franchise. This week alone they saw Reggie Jackson, Enes Kanter, Paul George, Serge Ibaka and Chris Paul.
With the Brooklyn Nets coming to town Friday, the trend was going to continue. Four members of the Nets have worn a Thunder jersey before. They include Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Yet, even with Durant not playing, Oklahoma City knew they were going to have a hard time slowing down the high scoring Nets. That wound up being true as the Thunder fell 147-125 Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Brooklyn had nine players score in double figures. Harden and Kyrie Irving led the charge with 25 points each. Harden also racked up a triple-double as he collected 10 points and 11 assists in 32 minutes/
Oklahoma City was led by Theo Maledon, who scored 24 points. That included a rookie record 6 of 6 shooting from 3-point range.
“He’s very stable, he’s very solid, he’s used to playing at a certain pace and we’re really encouraging him to be more aggressive and play with more pop,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “He delivered well tonight for us.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also posted 24 points five assists and four rebounds.
Brooklyn announced early in the afternoon that Durant wouldn’t be playing against the Thunder due to Achilles injury recovery. The last time Durant played in Oklahoma City was April 3, 2018 as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
Despite not having Durant, the Nets didn’t suffer too much on the offensive end early on. Even with Irving and Harden accounting for only 14 points, they led 36-27 after the first quarter.
“I thought we could have obviously been sharper, especially in the first half when they got their rhythm,” Daigneault said. “They played with a lot of chemistry and they made us pay on a lot of plays.”
After Oklahoma City started the game strong, they went cold from the field. They were especially frigid from 3-point range. Oklahoma City was 8 of 20 from behind the arc in the first half.
Even after the Thunder found its offense behind an aggressive Gilgeous-Alexander, the Nets kept scoring at will. Brooklyn led by 21 before the Thunder scored four points in the final 14 seconds to cut the halftime lead to 76-59.
Along with Gilgeous-Alexander, Maledon, Darius Bazley and Al Horford kept Oklahoma City within striking distance in the third quarter as their offensive attack woke up.
The lead was whittled down to 14 with 2:15 left in the quarter. It looked like they had a chance to get the deficit into single digits.
However, it took only one minute before the Nets were able to get the lead back up to 22. Brooklyn wound up taking a 115-94 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Led by Maledon, Oklahoma City once again was able to go on a run and cut the lead down to 13 with 8:45 left in the fourth.
“He played well, got hot for us and made the right play,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Maledon. “I think he’s capable of that more often. He works hard and does the right things and the basketball gods are just rewarding him. I feel like he’ll continue to get better day-in and day-out and I’m excited to see the progress.”
However, Harden halted the momentum on the next possession when he was fouled while knocking down a 3-pointer. The ensuing free throw push Brooklyn’s advantage back to 17.
From that point on, it was all Brooklyn and they cruised their way to a 22 point win.
Oklahoma City (8-10) dropped to 1-6 at home. They will host the Houston Rockets Monday.
Michael Kinney Media