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News » THUNDER 94, NETS 85 2009-01-29


THUNDER 94, NETS 85 2009-01-29


THUNDER 94, NETS 85  2009-01-29
On a night Oklahoma City led by 30 points, the game came down to a 20.

A size 20, to be exact.

Had big man Brook Lopez not put his very big shoe on the out-of-bounds line late in the game, New Jersey would've made things even more interesting than they were.

As it was, the Thunder hung on, 94-85.

"When you're up by 30, you tend to let off the pedal, you tend to relax a little bit," Thunder forward Jeff Green said. "That's something you can't do."

Chalk this up as another learning experience for the Thunder.

There have been lots of lessons for this squad. First, it had to learn how to play hard. Then came buying into the system. Then avoiding lapses. Then winning games.

Now, it has to figure out how to empty the bench and still close out games.

That's because there's no reason Monday night's game should've been this close. The Thunder dominated for three quarters. It shot well, rebounded well, passed well, defended well.

The Thunder led by four touchdowns heading into the fourth quarter, and it looked every bit that much better than the Nets.

Scott Brooks decided to empty his bench.

And why not?

Any NBA coach would welcome the opportunity to rest his starters with a lead like that, to give them a short night, to save them a bit for the long road that remains.

Trouble is, the wheels fell off.

After going up 30 points - this squad's biggest lead of the season - the Thunder went more than 61/2 minutes without a basket. There were misses and turnovers and anxious moments a plenty.

Green leapt off the bench when the Nets cut the lead to a dozen.

"That's a red flag," he said later.

"C'mon, white," he hollered then.

Durant joined Green, standing and clapping and encouraging the reserves, but at the same time, the Thunder stars were looking at Brooks with you-can-put-us-back-in-if-you-want eyes.

"They did a good job scrambling and mucking up the game," Brooks said of the Nets. "It forced us to take quicker shots. It forced us to make risky passes.

"It's something we will look at and figure that out."

Still, the Thunder coach chose to see the positive in the night.

"I'm not discounting the last 12 minutes of the game - it did take place - but the game was well-played up until that point," he said. "I still think tonight's game is a game we should be proud of."

Granted, it wasn't that long ago that a Thunder victory - any Thunder victory - was cause for celebration.

But when the Ford Center folks released the streamers Monday night just like they always do after a win, it didn't feel all that festive. Perhaps it was because of a crowd depleted by an Oklahoma ice storm, but just maybe, it was because a blowout became a battle.

When Lopez stepped out of bounds with 13.7 seconds left, he was open in the corner. Drain a 3-pointer like the big man had repeatedly in warm-ups, and the Nets would've trailed by only four points.

Gulp.

"In the end, we won the game," Thunder veteran Desmond Mason said. "The most important thing is, we won the game."

And just maybe, the Thunder learned something along the way about closing out games, too.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 29, 2009

 

 
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