Nets Snap Thunder’s Home Winning Streak

Brooklyn Nets – 110, Oklahoma City Thunder – 93

The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered its third home loss of the season at the hands of the revitalized Brooklyn Nets Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Nets jumped out to an early first quarter advantage and eventually saw their lead grow to 23 points late in the first half. However, the Thunder battled back in the third quarter and tied the game off a Kevin Martin three with 7:11 left in the contest.

Brooklyn didn’t let up and went on a 24-6 run to close out their 17th win of the season.

GAME NOTES

  • The Nets shot nearly 70% from the floor in the first period with Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson combining for 22 of their first 33 points. Johnson torched Oklahoma City going 5-6 in the period including 2-3 from long range. The Thunder looked lackadaisical defensively and at times in the period it seemed Thabo Sefolosha was playing defense by himself.
  • Brook Lopez had his way with Thunder frontcourt. He scored 10 of his 25 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for the entire game. The Nets outscored the Thunder in the paint 42-36 and outrebounded them 38-34. Lopez proved to be a tough matchup for Kendrick Perkins with his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper and play outside the paint.
  • The Nets lost to San Antonio Monday thanks to an atrocious third quarter in which they were outscore 30-5. It was more of the same against Oklahoma City. The Thunder cut Brooklyn’s 16-point, halftime lead to four going into the final 12 minutes. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 20 points in the third and the Thunder outscored the Nets 27-15. Brooklyn came out of the locker room and mirrored Oklahoma City’s lethargic first quarter play.
  • Johnson continued to carry the Nets down the stretch with 13 of his game-high 33 points coming in the second half. A lot has been made of Johnson’s contract and he’s been called a paper-giant on more than one occasion. However, Johnson proved he could play up to his salary against the Thunder. He was easily the MVP of the game.
  • Deron Williams and Westbrook consistently went after each other throughout the game. Williams has been criticized for his perimeter defense, but he gave Westbrook everything he wanted. Westbrook finished with 26 points and 10 assists, but turned it over six times. It wasn’t until the third period that he finally got into a groove and Williams proved to be his biggest problem.
  • The Thunder resorted to isolation offense down the stretch. It was partly out of frustration and partly due to Brooklyn’s feisty defense. The frustration mounted to the point Durant couldn’t take it anymore and fell victim to a double-technical ejection, the first of his career. Durant had choice words for referee Danny Crawford as he walked off the court after a Perkins offensive foul.

PLAYER OF THE NIGHT

  • Joe Johnson: 33 POINTS / 11-19 (5-10 3PT) / 5 REBOUNDS

STAT OF THE NIGHT

  • OKC: 19 TURNOVERS (30 POINTS)

OBSERVATIONS

  • It’s hard to see why Brooklyn is just two games over .500 after thumping Oklahoma City. They have a nice mix of talent and a true point guard in Deron Williams. They also have great size with Brook Lopez and a decent bench led by Kris Humphries. Plus, Joe Johnson has the ability to go for 30 on any given night.
  • They are now 3-1 under Carlisimo who doesn’t seem nearly as laid back as former coach Avery Johnson. He could be the right guy for the job at the moment, even though two of their wins came against Charlotte and Cleveland in Brooklyn. I could see them righting the ship and becoming a dangerous team in the East, but they can’t hang with Miami. They could make a deep run in the playoffs if they get hot at the right time, but at the end of the day, there’s no competing with LeBron and the gang.

 

QUOTES

  • “We just played two of the best three offensive teams in the league. We didn’t play any defense against one and we defended this team about as well as you can defend them.” -P.J. Carlesimo
  • “I wasn’t worried about the third quarter. I was worried whether we could keep guys fresh enough. The guys off the bench did a great job for us.” -P.J. Carlesimo
  • “Gerald Wallace is a monster. You want to talk about something that wasn’t in San Antonio? Gerald Wallace.” -P.J. Carlesimo
  • “There is no need to panic. I think every time we lose around here everybody wants to go bananas.” Russell Westbrook
  • “We had 20 turnovers and gave up 30 points off of those 20 turnovers. It’s tough to win when you play a very good team that’s hot and give them extra possessions.” -Scott Brooks

 

2012-13 NBA Season Storylines To Watch

With the NBA kicking of this week, it’s the perfect time to take a look at all the key storylines fans will be following this season.

Buckle up, because it looks to be one heck of a season.

No Fuel For LeBron’s Haters
LeBron James was cast as a villain for the majority of the past two NBA seasons after his bold and cocky “Decision” to take his talents to South Beach. However, after winning an NBA Championship and putting on one of the more incredible individual performances in recent memory during the playoffs last spring, it appears the stink from two summers ago is finally off LeBron. He is only 27-years-old and it’s clear he still hasn’t reached his peak as a player. Now what can the haters cling to? Lame jokes about his receding hairline? Here’s to hoping to basketball fans have finally moved past his bad decisions two summers ago and they start to enjoy one of the better talents the game of basketball has ever witnessed.

Ray Allen Against The Celtics
Wow, things got nasty between Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics in a hurry. Within weeks of Allen bolting Beantown for South Beach, the haters came out of the woodwork in a hurry. Kevin Garnett claimed to no longer have Ray Allen’s phone number. Doc Rivers lamented to the Boston media how hurt he was by Allen’s decision. And Celtics fans? Look for them to be loud and passionate in booing Allen when he returns to Boston on January 27, 2013.

Allen, who normally doesn’t talk with the media about drama, gave interviews to a couple Miami outlets this month to clear the air and share his side of the story.

Personally, I find it entertaining how much drama a role player who will only get 20-25 minutes per game is generating.

Will There Be Drama In Los Angeles?
On paper, the Los Angeles Lakers should roll to the NBA Finals. However, as the old adage goes, there’s a reason why they play the games. It will be interesting to see how the egos of Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant mesh. Plus, Steve Nash has been winning the battle against Father Time thanks to the amazing work the Phoenix Suns’ training staff has done with his body. It will be interesting to see how the grizzled vet handles the rigors of an 82-game schedule without the safety blanket of the Suns training staff and with Steve Blake being his backup.

How Will Pacers Handle Expectations?
So far, not so good. Real games haven’t even started and already Danny Granger is complaining about his knee. It was looked at by doctors and they assume he can play through some pain, but Granger is complaining about not being able to gut it out. I’m planning on writing a story this week about how the Pacers are dealing with the burden of expectations after talking with the players and Frank Vogul when they are in Toronto on Wednesday. Stay tuned to Sportsnet for that column later this week.

The Brooklyn Nets Will Fail To Meet Expectations
Speaking of failing to meet expectations, look for the Brooklyn Nets to give the New York tabloids plenty of fodder this season as they will struggle to become one of the elite teams in their own division, let alone the Eastern Conference. Sure, the roster looks splashy with names like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, but who on that roster is known for playing gritty defence? Look for the Nets to get killed off dribble penetration and for their bigs to get posterized on a regular basis. If this Nets team doesn’t figure out a way to play effective defence their season will be a resounding disappointment.

Are The Spurs Too Old?
Last season one of the more comical moments came when Gregg Popovich gave Tim Duncan the night off and the box score said it was because Duncan was old. While funny, the reality is Duncan has played 1,111 regular season NBA games and 190 playoff games. The treads on the tires has to be running pretty low at this point. Throw in the fact the rest of their core – Tony Parker (958) and Manu Ginobili (803) – have played a combined 1,761 games in the NBA on top of busy summers playing for their national teams. It will be interesting to see what Popovich can do to ensure his veteran team is fresh for a deep run in the playoffs. But, if last season is any indication, it just means the team’s younger players will get extended minutes during the regular season to help with their development.

Is The Jeremy Lin Fairy Tale Over?
Jeremy Lin became an instant internet and global hit within the matter of weeks and the New York Knicks weren’t sure he could sustain that so they let him sign with the Houston Rockets this summer. Through his first six preseason games Lin has averaged 30.2 minutes per game but he is shooting 13-46 (28%) from the field. Yuck. Hopefully it’s just a matter of rust and once the games start to count he is able to elevate his game.

Can Chicago Stay Afloat Until Rose Returns?
Derrick Rose is scheduled to return from offseason knee surgery in February, but it’s likely the Bulls season could be toast by then. The Bulls are using a backcourt rotation of Kirk Hinrich, Marco Bellinelli, Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Rip Hamilton. Yuck. In my humble opinion, that’s the worst backcourt in the NBA, and the team will struggle mightily until Rose returns.

Ferry Quick To Leave His Mark On Hawks

Danny Ferry has been in charge of the Atlanta Hawks for less than a month, and already he’s stamped his indelible mark on the team with two huge trades.

It started out like a fairly normal week for the Hawks.  Just a few days after the NBA draft, most fans and analysts were pontificating and arguing about whether or not Atlanta had gotten themselves any help with their draft picks.

Then it started.

A few whispers and rumblings, using words like “discussions” and “ongoing talks” in regards to Joe Johnson being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Most figured it was just foolish gossip.  There was no way Atlanta was going to be able to convince any team to take on Johnson’s cap space eating contract.

And then in an interesting twist, Joe Johnson signed up for the social media photography service called Instagram, under the name “imstartinova2″.

Maybe the rumors and stories had some merit?

Apparently so, because before Monday was over the Hawks looked like a completely different team.

Ferry did what most said couldn’t be done and traded Joe Johnson to the Nets, and he didn’t end up with pie in the face while doing it.

Atlanta unloaded Johnson and his enormous contract to Brooklyn in exchange for the expiring contracts of Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, and Sean Williams, and get free-agent DeShawn Stevenson via a sign-and-trade. The Hawks will also get a lottery protected first round pick (via Houston).

The deal is set to be finalized on July 11 when the free-agent moratorium ends.

So the Hawks dump nearly $90 million they were going to have to pay Johnson over the next four years, and they get some players to look at, and a pick?

Score: Danny Ferry – 1, Doubters – 0

But the new Hawks GM wasn’t done yet.  No sooner had the Joe Johnson deal been solidified and writers filed their stories, Ferry pulled the trigger on another deal. The Hawks are sending seven-year veteran forward Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz for point guard Devin Harris, who is in the final year of his contract.

Williams was the number two overall draft pick in 2005, and has spent his entire NBA career with the Hawks, averaging 11.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists.  He was due to be paid $8.3 million in 2012-13 and $7.5 million in 2013-14.

In return, Atlanta gets a dynamic point guard with starting experience for at least one season, and who will provide a great complimentary teammate for the Hawks’ incumbent point guard Jeff Teague.

Score: Danny Ferry – 2, Doubters – 0

When you take in to account the trades of Johnson and Williams, and add in the fact that Atlanta had nine unrestricted free agents on the team, you could be looking at nearly a completely different roster by the time training camp rolls around.

But the question of what will happen with star forward Josh Smith still remains.  Smith’s future will likely depend on how his meetings with Ferry go, and if he gives a definitive indication on whether he plans to re-sign after this season or go elsewhere.

If Smith tells Ferry that his plan is to leave Atlanta after his contract expires this season, Hawks fans may see yet another big deal go down.