Oklahoma City is on pace to win 60 games and has two of the most exciting players in the game in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Nets are on pace to win 20 games and have basically nothing except an above-average center in Brook Lopez.
Sunday night, with the Thunder’s starting center Steven Adams out with an elbow injury, Lopez was enough to tip the scale improbably in the Nets favor. Lopez scored a season-high 31 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Nets to a 116-106 upset of one of the better teams it the NBA at Barclays Center.
The win, which ended a five game losing streak for the 12-33 Nets, was almost a treat for fans who had spent the last 24 hours hunkered down at home as one of the worst snowstorms in decades blanketed the area. Despite the fact the game’s tipoff was delayed by four hours because of the storm, the arena was nearly filled to capacity with the Thunder’s only visit to Brooklyn this year.
“This is a great win for us,” Nets interim coach Tony Brown said. “Oklahoma City has been playing great. Their pace and talent is outstanding.”
The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for the Thunder. Oklahoma City, which trailed the entire game, had arrived in New York early Saturday morning, just hours after recording their seventh straight win with Friday’s 109-106 victory over Dallas.
Durant, who said he did nothing but watch television and work out while snowbound in his Manhattan hotel room, led all scorers with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Russell Westbrook, who is averaging just under 10 assists per game, fell three assists short of a triple-double last night with 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Oklahoma City’s big men, Nick Collison and Enes Kanter, could do little to counter Lopez, however. The two combined for just 12 points, though they picked up 14 rebounds. Lopez, meanwhile, bounced back from one of his worst performances of the season — an eight-point game against Utah — to score as season high on 11-for-19 shooting.
“I thought Brook was outstanding,” Brown said. “He had a great presence in the paint. We posted him. That’s the type of showing I would like to see from him going forward.”
The game could rank as the highlight of the season for a team, if not a franchise, that entered the game in disarray.
The Nets entered Sunday night’s game having lost 10 of it’s last 11. Since firing head coach Lionel Hollins and re-assigning general manager Billy King on Jan 10, the team has shown little improvement. The win improved their record under Brown to 2-6. It was also their most complete showing of the season.
The Nets had five players score in double figures. Bojan Bogdanovic contributed 18 points off the bench and Thaddeus Yound had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“We just played so confident,” Lopez said. “We took what we thought we had and there were little adjustments. Guys took their shots when they new they could make it. Not all of them went in obviously, but we played with confidence. We just went out there completely confident.”