Lopez's career night helps Nets survive ThunderJan 13, 2009 - 6:14 AM By Carl Dispoto PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets may have finally found an inside presence to compliment their high-powered backcourt.
Rookie Brook Lopez scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Nets avoided a scare and pulled out a 103-99 victory over Oklahoma City on Monday night.
New Jersey has been propelled this season by its starting backcourt of Vince Carter and Devin Harris - the NBA's
second-highest scoring duo. But Lopez is evolving into an intriguing third option and decimated the undersized Thunder in his best game as a pro.
"He's been aggressive, attacking the rim and playing phenomenal basketball," Carter said. "This is a building block for him. He's definitely capable of being a go-to guy for this team and an important piece to our puzzle and our success. We have to continue to work with him and encourage him."
"This definitely is a little benchmark for me," Lopez said. "It's definitely great in that regard as to how I want to play."
The 7-footer made 10-of-17 shots from the floor, 11-of-12 from the line and blocked a pair of shots. He showed an impressive offensive repertoire that included jump hooks, spin moves and - most surprisingly - a couple of long jumpers.
"I've always had confidence in my shooting," he said. "If it's necessary or as my game further progresses and I feel more comfortable, I feel like I can shoot that shot more and more."
Carter added 21 points and tied a career high with six steals and Harris finished with 17 and eight assists for the Nets, who have won four consecutive home games after starting the season just 5-12 at the IZOD Center.
Kevin Durant scored 26 points and rookie Russell Westbrook added 19 as the Thunder lost for the 17th time in 19 road games the season. They were trying for their first road winning streak after posting an overtime victory at Chicago on Saturday.
Despite Lopez's performance, New Jersey squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter as Oklahoma City closed regulation on a 19-7 run. Durant scored nine points in the spurt, including a tip-in on Westbrook's miss to tie the game at 88-88 with just over two minutes remaining.
But neither team scored for the rest of the quarter. New Jersey nearly won the game in regulation, but Carter had a 3-pointer from the left wing in the final seconds waved off as coach Lawrence Frank called timeout prior to the shot.
"It was set up perfect but (Frank) thought we were scrambling," Carter said. "(The Thunder) were scrambling trying to match up to us, so I just tried to open up the court and no one followed me. It was unfortunate, but we did a good job in overtime. It would have been a terrible way to lose the game."
"That's just coach, he likes to call timeouts," Harris said. "It's a tough situation because Vince made the shot. We would've thought differently if Vince missed the shot."
Harris missed a jumper with a half-second left following the timeout and the Thunder were unable to get a shot off at the buzzer.
"I apologized to the team," Frank said. "I said, 'I screwed us this time, let's win the thing, and you've got an extra five minutes to do it.'"
The Nets made up for that missed opportunity as Carter opened overtime with a 3-pointer to spark a 6-0 run. Harris added a short jumper and Lopez followed with a pair of foul shots, but the Thunder answered and pulled within 97-95 on Westbrook's three-point play with 85 seconds to go.
But Lopez responded just 16 seconds later, following Harris' miss with a dunk to extend the lead to four. The Thunder managed just four free throws thereafter as the Nets sealed the game from line.
The Thunder, who dominated overtime against Chicago on Saturday, committed three of their 23 turnovers in the extra period.
"We had a chance to win with a half-second left. We'll take that," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We still have to a better job of taking care of our mistakes. That many turnovers is tough to overcome - home, away, it doesn't matter. Those are things we have to continue to work on."
Lopez carried the Nets in the first half with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting as Harris and Carter struggled. The Thunder had a seven-point lead at halftime before the teams engaged in a wild third quarter.
New Jersey opened the third with seven straight points, Oklahoma City responded with six consecutive points to reclaim the lead and the Nets countered with 16 in a row. Harris had six points and two assists during the burst and the Thunder never regained the lead.
OKLAHOMA CITY 99
NEW JERSEY 103 FINAL IN 1ST OT
Jan 12 10:18 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 88
NEW JERSEY 88 END OF 4TH QTR GOING INTO OVERTIME
Jan 12 9:55 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 65
NEW JERSEY 67 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 12 9:20 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 51
NEW JERSEY 44 HALFTIME
Jan 12 8:41 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 25
NEW JERSEY 25 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 12 8:10 PM
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