The New York Knicks were not the only New York-area team to score a surprising road victory on Thursday. The Brooklyn Nets joined in on the upset win festivities as they knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road by two points in a 95-93 victory. Though both New York teams shocked two of the NBA's elite teams, it was the Nets who, by far, delivered the most amperes en route to totaling their 11th victory of the season.
Much of the game played out as one would expect when one of the best teams in the NBA is facing one of the most disappointing ones, a team made even more disappointing by having to play without their best player, Brook Lopez, who was lost for the season after suffering another broken bone in his foot. The Thunder were missing one of their top players as well, as Russell Westbrook is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, but the Thunder actually have enough above-average players to lessen the negative effect of not having Westbrook in the lineup.
With star players missing from both teams, but with the Thunder still holding an overall advantage in roster composition, it was really no surprise when the team started methodically building a lead over the Nets. In the second quarter, when the Nets stopped scoring for 4:09, the Thunder rattled up 12 uncontested points, going from a one-point lead to a 13-point winning margin. It was a lead that the Thunder would extend ever so slightly so that by the time halftime arrived, the Thunder were leading 59-44.
Even armed with the knowledge that as much time as the Thunder had to build their lead, the Nets had an equal amount of time to outscore their opponent by the same 15 points, perception of both teams' ability levels on any given night naturally led to one assuming the Thunder would eventually coast to a victory.
The assumption of an inevitable Thunder victory was backed up for the next 12 minutes of game time as the Thunder still held onto a double-digit lead at the end of the third quarter. Then the Nets offense woke up, thanks to contributions from four of their five starters, while the Thunder offense was slowly, but surely, put to sleep.
Aiding the Nets in their comeback efforts were the Thunder themselves who, like the Nets in the second quarter, stopped finding ways to complete the elemental step of putting the ball in the basket. After Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson completed a three-point play to give the Thunder a 10-point lead with 6:54 remaining in the contest, the Thunder took an ill-advised vacation from scoring that lasted for 5:35.
When the Thunder offense returned from their holiday, they found themselves facing the nightmare that every traveler has; their possession, the lead in this instance, was not where they had left it before embarking on their trip. In fact, the Nets had capitalized on the absence of the Thunder offense by claiming a four-point lead for themselves, having scored 14 unanswered points.
The Thunder scored the next four points of the game to briefly tie the score at 93-93, but Joe Johnson made sure that the Nets' comeback efforts were not wasted by making a game-winning 19-foot shot that went through the basket with no time remaining in the game.
Even though it was Johnson who played the last-minute hero, he would not have been in the position to shine in that role if it had not been for the shooting of his teammate, Deron Williams; actually, overall, Johnson played a horrendous game, only making four of his 11 field goal attempts and not attempting a single free throw.
Williams was far and away the best offensive player for the Nets on Thursday as he scored 29 points, posted a 79.1 true shooting percentage, and produced 131 points per 100 possessions, putting together his most impressive performance of the season.
What the Nets did on Thursday, coming back from double digits against a superior team, relying on a last-second game-winning shot, and getting lights-out shooting from a player who has struggled with his shot for most of the season, does not appear to be a repeatable winning formula, but at least for one game, it worked to perfection.