There was no Kevin Durant, no Devin Harris. Their knees would not allow it. That is why a lot of people did not notice that the Thunder and Nets were hooking up Wednesday night — but it turned out to be the best game you didn’t watch.
It had triple overtime. It had brilliant plays and stupefying mistakes. It had ridiculous shots. And in the end, it hand the best player on the floor — Russell Westbrook — taking over in the third overtime and winning it for the Thunder 123-120.
Lets start with how we even got to the first overtime.
Anthony Morrow is an elite shooter in this league who often gets overlooked (people thought his stats were the result of the Don Nelson “system” with the Warriors, but Morrow was one of the few efficient scorers on that team last season).
The Thunder are not overlooking him now — with less than a second on the clock a leaning three to send the game to overtime. Some might call it lucky, but is it lucky when Kobe or Manu hit shots like that? Morrow can knock those down. The Nets are figuring out they have something specil
He hit another three and a rainbow-arching 15 footer over his defender in overtime on his way to 25 for the game. It looked again like this one was the Nets, up six it halfway through it. Then with less than a minute in overtime the Nets kept giving Russell Westbrook good look 15 footers. He got hot, something the Thunder would regret. Meanwhile Jordan Farmar drove and kicked to — Brook Lopez 21 feet out. Hard to believe that your center taking a long two was really what Avery Johnson wanted, but it’s what he got.
Second overtime starts like the first, with the Nets ahead and looking like they should have this one. The Thunder fouled, Morrow kept knocking down shots. So it was time for the Thunder’s last second desperation three to tie and the Nets will win… so long as nobody fouls the shooter. We’re looking at you, Stephen Graham. He fouls Jeff Green in the act, and Green (who finished with 37) drained them.
Jordan Farmar got the inbound and tried to go coast to coast and win I t right there. With the Lakers, he was a guy known for hitting tough shots at the end of the first three quarters (you think he got to take them at the end of the fourth with Kobe on the team?). Not this time. Missed. And we have a third overtime.
Earlier in the night Westbrook had trouble finishing in the paint early but once he got going from the midrange he was hitting shots from anywhere he wanted. Like another 15 footer over Kris Humphries. Two trips later down the court Westbrook missed but followed his shot (just like your coach used to tell you to do) and got in unmarked, got the board and the put back). He was taking over.
Then with a chance to close it out, he nearly broke Travis Outlaw’s ankles with a crossover, drove down into Brook Lopez, scored the bucket and got the and-one. Westbrook (who finished with 38 points) scored all 13 of the Thunder points in that final overtime and got his team the win.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins. But without Durant, in a game they should have lost a few times over, you take it and don’t look back. Call it gutty if you want. The Thunder are finding ways to win, not unlike what happened last year, and if they really are putting it together the rest of the West should be worried.