The Nets got off to a promising start as they tried to shake off their disbelief about losing Monday night on a last-second turnover.
The Nets were hanging around with the league’s hottest team and were within one point after getting a steal and breakaway dunk by Shaun Livingston when Kevin Durant dribbled the ball off his foot.
That was one of the few highlights for the Nets and perhaps the only thing Durant did wrong because a few possessions later the Thunder began a game-changing run that ultimately led to a 120-95 rout Friday night.
Durant likely would have reached 30 points for a career-high 13th straight game but instead wound up with 26 points. He was given the rest of the night off after delivering a 10-of-12 shooting performance in three quarters which helped Oklahoma win its 10th straight game while improving the league’s best record to 38-10.
“It looked like they were moving at a faster pace early on and they sustained it,” Livingston said. “We tried to take the run, tried to take the hit early, but they sustained the run. They’re playing at a high level.”
Livingston constantly stayed near Durant but even proximity on defense was not working.
“What he’s doing right now it’s crazy,” Deron Williams said. “At the end of the year, it’s going to be hard to argue that he’s not the MVP of this league with what he’s doing right now. He’s carrying the team without [Russell] Westbrook and he’s one of the best scorers I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s what he does,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “Durant can hit shots with two people on him. We thought Shaun was there on a majority of his shots tonight and he made some extremely tough shots. That’s the type of player Durant is. He can knock down those shots.”
Durant would have reached 30 but he spent most of the third quarter facilitating the offense. Serge Ibaka came within two points of a career high as he finished with 25 points (13 in the third) on 12-of-12 shooting setting an Oklahoma City record for field goals by mostly catching the ball and shooting it instead of putting the ball on the floor.
Oklahoma City shot 64 percent from the field, the highest in the league this season. The Nets also set an NBA record with just 17 rebounds, getting outrebounded 41-17 while also getting outscored 58-30 in the paint and 11-0 in second-chance points.
“It hasn’t only bee Durant,” Paul Pierce said. “Durant has been the guy getting the headlines but if you look across during the winning streak, they’ve had a number of guys step up. Ibaka has definitely been one of them and so are some of their other guys. That’s just a great player making his other teammates better.”
The Nets conceded Durant would get his points but the plan was to stop others.
“It’s tough,” Joe Johnson said. “As a team, not only Durant, their whole team is in a pretty good rhythm at this point but we just caught a hot OKC team and we just didn’t have what we needed tonight to win this game. I think Ibaka was 12-for-12. It’s tough to beat teams like that when you got two of the best players on the team scorching hot right now.”
The run that put the game out of reach might have been the best illustration of how Oklahoma City is rolling. The Thunder were up 17-16 with 4:57 left in the first after Livingston dunked before a 28-5 run that saw them go up 45-21 midway through the second. Durant took just two shots in the run and the Nets missed 14-of-16 shots and committed five turnovers.
The Nets lost their second straight game after opening this month with 10 wins in 11 games. That run started Jan. 2 when Joe Johnson hit the game-winning shot in a two-point win at Oklahoma City. The closest the Nets were in the second half was 22 points.
When he wasn’t trying to guard Durant, Livingston scored 16 points. Pierce had 10 and Johnson had nine. Kevin Garnett was held scoreless and had five rebounds in 12 minutes.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.