Jan. 11—Kevin Durant wore a new uniform, facing a team of strangers wearing his old uniform.
Durant played against the Thunder in his three seasons with the Warriors, but Sunday was his first game against the Thunder as a Net. And it was the first time Durant played a Thunder team that featured none of his former teammates.
That fact was cemented in the offseason when the Thunder traded Steven Adams and moved on from Andre Roberson — both of whom played with Durant in Oklahoma City.
Thunder forward Darius Bazley defended Durant on Sunday night. Bazley was 16 years old when Durant signed with Golden State in the summer of 2016.
Durant schooled Bazley on a third-quarter drive. Bazley grabbed the ball out of the net and threw it off the stanchion.
Durant, playing without costar Kyrie Irving (personal reasons), led the Nets with 36 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. He shot 12-of-15 from the free-throw line.
But it wasn’t enough.
The Thunder (5-4) topped the Nets 129-116 at Barclays Center to finish 4-1 on its five-game road trip.
Here are four other takeaways from the Thunder’s win:
The Nets blitzed the Thunder 41-29 in the first quarter, and it looked like the rout was on early.
But then the Thunder’s bench steadied the game in the second quarter before the Thunder unleashed its own barrage to start the second half.
Oklahoma City outscored Brooklyn 37-18 in the third quarter. It was the Thunder’s highest-scoring quarter of the season, and Sunday marked the Thunder’s highest-scoring game of the season.
“The game got dicey a little bit early, and by no fault of anybody’s, I just didn’t think we had the best energy, in the first quarter especially,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “And then we came out at halftime and we kinda committed to having a different level of energy on offense and defense. All 10 guys that touched the floor in the third did an unbelievable job of amping it up a little bit.”
The Thunder added 35 more points in the fourth quarter to take advantage of the Nets’ lackluster defense.
OKC finished with 66 points in the paint and it shot 39% from 3-point range.
SGA’s hot start
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drove left against Durant, but Durant shuffled his feet to stay in front of the Thunder point guard.
Gilgeous-Alexander stopped near the left elbow and lifted for a shot. Durant fell for the fake and Gilgeous-Alexander stepped through for an easy layup.
The young Thunder star seemed to relish the matchup against the former Thunder star. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half.
“Obviously Kevin Durant is one of the better players in this league,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “And me being a competitor and a guy that ultimately wants to be one of those guys, I love challenges like that.
“We was gonna have to guard him, and he was gonna have to guard me. We was gonna find out. It was nothing but competition.”
Gilgeous-Alexander stayed hot in the second half. He scored a season-high 31 points with seven assists and six rebounds.
Hami’s homecoming, Part 2
Turns out, Madison Square Garden isn’t the only New York venue Hamidou Diallo enjoys playing in.
Two days after scoring a season high 23 points against the Knicks, Diallo poured in 13 first-half points against the Nets at Barclays Center.
The Queens, New York, native scored the Thunder’s first nine points of the second quarter.
The Thunder trailed 41-29 at the end of the first quarter, but OKC erased Brooklyn’s lead in the second quarter with Diallo on the floor. He checked out with 3:07 left in the second quarter and the game tied 51-51.
Diallo helped in a variety of ways. He drained a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock. He finished a tough left-handed layup off the glass. And he found Al Horford and Isaiah Roby for two of his four assists.
“I’m just watching guys like Shai and George Hill, guys just playing the pick-and-roll and getting different reads every night,” Diallo said. “I’m picking their brains and watching how they manipulate the defense and then try to implement it into my game as well.”
Diallo started the fourth quarter with a dunk to give the Thunder a 15-point lead.
He finished with a seasonhigh 25 points and a career-high four steals.
Diallo had back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his three-year career.
Mike Muscala (rib contusion) was available to play Sunday, but Daigneault gave Muscala the night off.
That meant extended minutes for Roby as the backup center behind Horford.
Roby capitalized on the chance. He scored 13 points with five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Horford scored a season-high 22 points with six rebounds. He shot 3-of-7 from 3-point range.
“We mixed in some post-ups for him and he shot the ball well again,” Daigneault said. “The threat of him shooting, and Isaiah and Mike, opens the paint up for those other guys to attack.”