6 min read

Thunder lose their cool late against the Nets, 110-93


There’s something about P.J. Carlesimo being inside The Peake and the Thunder playing terrible.

It can’t be a coincidence. Maybe seeing him patrol the sidelines with that constantly furrowed brow and his arms always crossed made the Thunder snap back to 2008. Because what other reason is there to explain the Thunder giving up 61 first half points and completely collapsing late in the fourth? In all seriousness, it felt a whole lot like one of those ugly “They’ll learn from this” losses that were commonplace in 2008.

The last six minutes of the game, the Thunder scored eight total points. Shame in that is that right before, Oklahoma City scratched, hustled and clawed its way back from a 23-point first half deficit to tie the game 85-85 with seven minutes left.

And then the Thunder got stupid.

Bad fouls put Brooklyn in the bonus. And bad fouls helped the Nets go on an 10-1 run. Of the 10 points, eight came at the foul line. The Nets shot 21 free throws in the fourth with 12 of the Thunder’s 23 fouls getting called in the last 12 minutes. After the game was tied 85-85, the Nets outscored OKC 25-8 those last seven minutes, on only three made baskets.

Eventually, the frustrations about the officiating and the way the Thunder were defending and executing boiled over with Kevin Durant picking up two technical fouls back-to-back, earning his first career ejection.

“I said it was a bad call,” Durant said when asked what he said. “They got a quick trigger now.

“I think I’m allowed to be frustrated,” Durant continued. “Especially in this league with the ups and downs. Players are allowed to be frustrated. It is what it is. You move on from it.”

With the foul discrepancy and the free throw margin and the fact Durant has never been that visibly pissed at an official, it’d be easy to place some of the blame on the referees. But Scott Brooks, classy as ever, refused to go there.

“If I was playing in a pickup game back home I wouldn’t even complain about the referees knowing I didn’t even get fined,” he said. “They had nothing to do with us losing tonight. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Kevin did get frustrated but he got frustrated because we don’t like to lose.

“Referees had nothing to do with this loss,” Brooks continued. “We had everything to do with it. Myself, our team. We win together, we lose together.”

In most every way, he’s right. The officiating surely didn’t help, especially as the Nets put the Thunder away mostly at the foul line, but it was the poor execution offensively, the sloppy defense and the stupid mistakes that did OKC in. Once the game got tied, the Thunder got stupid.

One part of that could be when Brooks replaced Thabo with Perk with 5:58 left in OKC down four. Before Durant’s ejection, Perk’s late game usage was really headed to be the main talking point of this one, but still, it’s a question worth asking. Here’s how Brooks rationalized it:

“We knew we needed to get some stops with [Brook] Lopez. We win a lot of games with Perk. We decided to continue to go with how we win. We have to win with our bigs, we have to win with our screen-setting and win with our toughness. And Perk is one of our best screen-setters and one of our tough guys.”

Normally, I’d much prefer the Thunder go small to finish with Ibaka or Collison playing the 5 (I’ve definitely written about that before), but in this circumstance, I didn’t hate Perk coming back in. He was a major part in changing the team’s defensive focus in the third quarter. He did good work on Lopez, was physical in the paint on Brooklyn’s drives and was actually doing solid work on the boards. It was honestly shaping up as one of his better games.

But seeing how it played out, it felt like the wrong choice, but at the time, with the margin four and six minutes left, it seemed like a good decision to favor size and defense over the small lineup. Hard to predict the Nets were about to parade to the free throw line and with Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Martin all on the floor, Perk could actually be valuable just setting screens as the offense flowed through OKC’s four best players.

Again, I can see the argument against bringing Perk back there, but I don’t think that six-minute collapse was on him. Durant had a terrible turnover, Westbrook missed a contested jumper, then Durant and Martin missed short runners and by that point, the Nets’ lead was nine and OKC was sunk. Perk’s fault? As long as you include him in the collapse that involved Westbrook, Martin, Ibaka and Durant, then yeah, it was.

The loss snaps a 12-game home win streak and definitely leaves a sour taste. Not often do the Thunder get smoked in winning time like that. The Thunder should really think about firing P.J. Carlesimo.


  • OK for real now Nike. You’re getting a little too carried away with this “KD IS NOT NICE” thing. Starting a viral campaign where KD actually gets tossed is a bit too much.
  • Westbrook postgame: “There’s no need to panic. I think every time we lose around here everybody wants to go bananas. We lost a game. S’aight. We in a good spot.”
  • On that: I think there’s an assumption that happens, just because losses are rare. When you win 24 out of 30 games, wins are the norm and losses spike big on the meter. Since losses don’t happen often, there’s a whole lot more to talk about and dissect and wonder what went wrong. Wins are typical, losses aren’t. Whereas as ho-hum 14-point win over Sacramento leaves you without much to say, when a team as good as the Thunder lose — to anyone, really — it seems like a bigger deal. It’s not panicking. It’s not going bananas. It’s just natural.
  • Then again, the Thunder have yet to win in 2013. I’m going bananas.
  • For having such a lob threat like Ibaka, it’s kind of amazing how many lobs the Thunder don’t connect on in the halfcourt.
  • Take note that KD still gave a kid a high-five on the way out after being ejected.
  • Knowing Durant, I honestly thought he was going to open his postgame comments apologizing to Danny Crawford. Just seemed like something he would do.
  • Durant had a splendid game despite the ejection. He finished with 27 points on 11-17, five rebounds and five assists.
  • Westbrook was great too: 26 points on 11-19 and 10 assists. He had six turnovers which is bad, but he was a major player in sparking the Thunder’s second half comeback.
  • It’s getting to the point when someone passes Hasheem Thabeet the ball I go “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
  • Another moderate no-show from Kevin Martin. Following up a 2-12 game where he had six points, he was 3-10 for 11 tonight. Though he did hit a big time 3 to tie the game late.
  • You know what? Brook Lopez might just be the best offensive center in basketball. Marc Gasol? Maybe. A healthy Andrew Bynum? Sure. But right now, Lopez’s offensive skill is top notch and very tough to guard.
  • Look, I totally get the discussion and debate around Perk. I like to think I’m not an idiot. He has his pluses, and a substantial number of minuses. But for crying out loud, we’ve got to get away from scapegoating him every time the Thunder don’t play well and he’s on the floor. There were people blaming OKC’s awful first half defense on Perk. He, among others, didn’t play well at all. But it was Thabo’s man that went 8-of-10 for 20 points in the first half. Any time a team goes on a run against OKC and Perk’s on the floor, please, consider for just a moment, that one of the angels like Durant, Westbrook or Ibaka might also be at fault as well.
  • Westbrook goes for the reacharound wayyyyy too much. It’s just a lazy defensive tactic.
  • I thought Deron Williams’ panther tattoo would look better up close and in person, but it seriously looks like right after he got it done, he laid on his right arm for 20 minutes and smeared the ink everywhere.
  • What Kevin Love is to outlet passing, Perk is the opposite.
  • I’ll say it: Nick Collison didn’t have a very good game. Twice he was out of bounds on the baseline when he caught passes. And he was a foul machine. He just didn’t have the same kind of impact against the Nets’ big men that he typically does. Part of the reason I didn’t hate playing Perk over him in the fourth.
  • Ibaka has hit corner 3s in back-to-back games. My heart, it needs to be still right now.
  • For the halftime entertainment tonight, we watched high school kids shoot free throws. RIVETING.
  • As Collison walked by P.J. Carlesimo’s pregame media interview session he let out a long “Peeeeeeeeeeej” which was just terrific.
  • After just five turnovers last game, OKC gave it away 20 times tonight.

Next up: Friday at home against the Sixers.