Start spreading the news. The Oklahoma City Thunder is leaving today in the best shape of this young season.
If you watched Sunday’s game, it was hard to not rub your eyes in disbelief just to be sure what you were seeing was indeed what you were seeing.
If you didn’t watch Sunday’s game and you looked at the game’s final score, you may have assumed the arena’s scoring operator took a two-and-a-half hour nap or accidentally awarded the Thunder more points than the Nets.
But it’s true. Oklahoma City marched into the Barclays Center and mollywhopped the Brooklyn Nets 129-116 on Sunday night.
First Takeaway: Tightening Up
The Thunder have typically looked formidable during most first quarters this season, but Sunday was a different animal.
Brooklyn came out early with a laser-like focus on destroying the nets (the thing that hangs from the rim, not the team).
The Nets (the team, not the thing that hangs from the rim) were sizzling from the field, making 69.6 percent of its shots and scoring 41 points during the opening quarter.
The trio of Jarrett Allen (3-for-3, eight points), Caris Levert (4-for-4, 10 points) and former Thunder player Kevin Durant (3-for-6, eight points) helped push Brooklyn to an eight-point lead late in the opening period.
The game was going nowhere fast for Oklahoma City, but it was at the start of the second quarter when everything changed. After allowing 41 points in the first, the Thunder held the Nets to 40 points during the second and third quarters combined.
It is impressive for an NBA team to hold any opponent to 40 points over a 24-minute stretch. It’s downright incredible to pull this off against a team like the Nets, who entered Sunday as the third-highest scoring team in the league (118.8 points per game).
Second Takeaway: Not At Full Strength
Brooklyn went without guard Kyrie Irving again Sunday, who is listed as out due to personal reasons. The Nets regained the services of Durant, who missed the last three games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Sunday was the first such game where Durant was on the court and Irving was not.
Regardless, this game was still theirs to win, but they were drowned out by the Thunder bench.
I teased Friday that Thunder guard and Queens native Hamidou Diallo had another chance to outdo himself while spending another day in New York.
I’ll gladly take *some* credit for his 25-point performance on Sunday night.
There was more where that came from.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault told reporters pregame that Mike Muscala would be active and available against the Nets, but he never saw the floor. In Muscala’s stead, Isaiah Roby came alive in the third quarter and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
Oklahoma City’s bench play can make you forget that it trailed by 15 points at one point.
Third Takeaway: Road Runners
When the Thunder fell behind early, there appeared to be a good reason for that: Fatigue.
It was OKC’s fifth road game in nine days. Legs were heavy. Brains were tired.
However, the players fought through the fog to end Oklahoma City’s road trip by winning four of those five games, including the last three in a row.
The Thunder will set up shop at Chesapeake Energy Arena for the next four games against San Antonio, the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago and Philadelphia before it embarks on yet another five-game road trip.
Now the team must learn how to take its stellar play on the road and get it in the win column at home.