Fri, Jan 31, 8:55pm by Daryl Curnow
When: 12pm, February 1.
Where: Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, New York
Record: Nets 20-23 (12-10 Home) vs. Thunder 37-10 (17-7 Away)
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TWO of the hottest teams in January come together as the resurgent Brooklyn Nets take on the Oklahoma City Thunder who is coming off a massive win against the two-time defending champions the Miami Heat on Thursday. The Nets started the season very slow and most pundits were questioning their recruitment, but natural class has taken them to a 10-2 record in January, with their only defeats coming both to the Toronto Raptors.
The Nets come into this matchup having lost their last game to Toronto by only one point 104-103 but they finally got production out of former Boston Celtic player Paul Pierce. The aging Pierce had yet to show his hand this season yet he top scored the game with 33 points – the silver lining in a loss that broke a five-game winning streak. In a lineup that has needed plenty of bench support due to injuries, Brook Lopez has the highest scoring average with 20.7 points but the big center has played only 17 games. Much like the Nets star player, Deron Williams has played only 27 but now with a full and healthy team, the Nets are showing they are genuine contenders this season.
During their 10-2 streak the Nets beat teams such as the New York Knicks, Dallas, Atlanta twice, Miami and most importantly, the Thunder back on January 2. Deron Williams scored a game high 29 points as the Nets scored a rare win on an away court. The Thunder will be looking to turn to tables and after their smashing victory against the Heat, who would say they can’t?
The Thunder’s 17-point win on Thursday was a statement to the rest of the league that they shouldn’t be forgotten. Scoring leader Kevin Durant is averaging a whopping 31.3 points per game which is just incredible considering his assist numbers are also up on previous years. The Thunder rank fourth in points scored as a team and seventh in total points conceded, making them a formidable team on both fronts. Serge Ibaka is a beast on the boards and Reggie Jackson has proved a nice replacement for the injured Russell Westbrook and is scoring 13.4 points per game with 4 assists.
The Thunder have won their last nine since losing to Memphis on January 14 and apart from a tight two-point game against Atlanta, they haven’t really been tested. They will be looking for revenge after losing to the Nets earlier this season at home but the Nets have a much stauncher defense and their old heads know how to get it done. The Thunder’s losses this season have come when least expected, with losses to the Jazz, Nets and the Raptors twice so therefore they are at danger against the Nets here.
Points: Kevin Durant (31.3)
Rebounds: Serge Ibaka (8.8)
Assists: Russell Westbrook (7.0)
Steals: Russell Westbrook (1.8)
Blocks: Serge Ibaka (2.5)
Points: Brook Lopez (20.7)
Rebounds: Kevin Garnett (6.9)
Assists: Devon Williams (7.1)
Steals: Shaun Livingston (1.0)
Blocks: Brook Lopez (1.8)
Head-to-head: Thunder @$1.64, Nets @$2.27
The $1.91 line: Nets +3.5 at Sportingbet.com.au
Total points over/under: Under 198 @$1.91
The obvious answer would be yes because they’re simply on fire at the moment, but winning in the NBA is all about match ups and the Thunder doesn’t entirely match up well against the Nets. However, they do have the scoring leader Kevin Durant and he can lead any team on his shoulders alone. He has added a new level to his game and the Nets will find it tough to defend him.
The Nets are hot at the moment despite losing their last game to Toronto. If Paul Pierce can replicate his 33-point scoring effort, the Nets will be well on their way to winning this game. The Nets match up well against the Thunder in every position except whoever gets the daunting task of marking Durant. Garnett provides them with good inside pressure and Deron Williams along with Joe Johnson can shoot the outside three.
We think the Nets have a great chance to win at home as an underdog. If they can shut down Durant and limit him to less than 30 points, then they have every chance to keep up with the high scoring Western Conference team. The Nets went 10-2 through January and they will want to get inside the Thunder’s head by beating them twice in succession.
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