Looking to prove themselves once again against one of the league's elite teams, the Brooklyn Nets came up short, falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 117-111, in a strategic and competitive 48 minutes.
Despite shooting a ridiculous 60.6 percent from the floor, 50 percent from behind the arc and 88.2 percent on 34 free-throw attempts, the Thunder found themselves in a tight battle for much of the fourth quarter.
The main reason why was Deron Williams, who in 42 minutes scored a game-high 33 points on 20 shots, with just two turnovers. The Nets point guard was dominant, getting to the basket at will and knocking down five three-pointers on the night.
On the other side, Kevin Durant led the way, as he typically does, with an uber-efficient 32 points on 16 shots.
The Nets came to battle without Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans but still managed to grab 14 more offensive rebounds than their opponent. The game stands as Brooklyn's second home loss of the season.
He was phenomenal scoring the ball early on, grabbing 15 points in the first half and finishing with 25. But very few of his points were easy, and he didn't find his way to the free-throw line until late in the game. Westbrook had to be accounted for whenever he held the ball, but he struggled mightily on the other end.
Williams dominated the matchup, putting Westbrook on skates and in foul trouble.
For much of this game, Williams was the entire Brooklyn offense, hitting outside shots, getting to the free-throw line and hitting teammates on well-timed cuts.
He started the game about as hot as anyone could imagine, scoring 12 points in the first nine minutes. He wouldn't score again in the first half, however, as the Thunder defense clamped down. But in the second half, that storm continued, as Williams scored 21 more points to finish the night with 33.
He kept Brooklyn in the game, and the fact that they almost beat a team they were clearly overmatched against is a testament to how special Williams can be on any given night.
He began with 10 points in the game's first seven minutes, which is about twice what he's averaging per game. But his value, as usual, came on the defensive end, when Scott Brooks placed him on Deron Williams.
Sefolosha didn't shut the All-Star point guard down, but he did make him work. A good, all-around 37 minutes from him Tuesday night, including a huge offensive put-back with less than a minute to go that put the Thunder up six and basically sealed the ball game.
Joe Johnson was nowhere to be found for much of this basketball game. He scored 17 points, but took 21 shots and missed six three-pointers. With his shot off, Johnson was unable to help the Nets in any other way, managing just three rebounds and three assists.
Kevin Durant didn't look like the Kevin Durant we're all accustomed to seeing through his first 12 minutes of action, scoring only three points on three shots. Then things got a little ridiculous. He scored seven points in the next two minutes, assuming the scoring burden from Sefolosha and Co. and keeping his team in the lead.
By the end of the first half, Durant had 17 points. He was the one to hit a jump shot every time the Nets crawled closer, and by the end of the game, he had 32.
Wallace had a rough first half, scoring two points without making a single basket. But near the end of the third quarter he was a monster, hitting three three-pointers on four possessions that helped cut a double-digit Thunder lead down to two.
A good chunk of his success should be attributed to Avery Johnson's decision to go small, placing Wallace at power forward for a good chunk of time. He took advantage when he could, finishing the night with 14 points.
As he tends to do, Humphries plodded through this game with a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double. Late in the game he appeared to block a Kevin Durant runner, but the referees called goaltending on what appeared to be a clean rejection. The call was not changed upon further review.
Ibaka continued to hit spot-up shots, but also put a spinning turnaround jumper on display early in the second half. He's officially established himself as a reliable offensive threat, and Tuesday night, with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, he showed different reasons why.
Perkins had a beautiful (strange, right?) dribble-drive dunk early in the second half that probably stands as the sole representation of anything even remotely resembling a highlight reel for his play this season. But his most important sequence came much later in the game.
With a few ticks less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Perkins found himself isolated above the free-throw line on Deron Williams. The Nets point guard had 31 points at the time, but Perkins forced him left then blocked the shot, helping OKC maintain a four-point lead.
Blatche led his team in scoring at the half with 13 points. Good for him, but that's as good a fact as any to explain why the Nets were down.
Nearly all his buckets came directly assisted by Deron Williams, or at the rim off an offensive rebound. He finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Martin was quiet, scoring seven first-half points but contributing none in the second half. He was on the court for 27 minutes, but it didn't feel like that in the least.
Bogans was Brooklyn's first man off the bench but didn't get into any real offensive rhythm in just under six minutes of action. He did, however, defend Kevin Durant in several key situations (in which he had very little success).
When the Nets went with a small lineup, Scott Brooks went with Nick Collison, who had five rebounds and five points in 18 minutes of play. Eric Maynor also chipped in with nine points and three assists.
Jerry Stackhouse played 30 minutes, made two three-pointers and led his team with a plus-10 in plus/minus. But elsewhere the Nets got very little production from their bench. Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson all failed to score.