Unfortunately for the New Jersey Nets, one team had to lose.
The Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder competed in a triple-overtime marathon at Prudential Center that ended with Russell Westbrook raining jump shots over Nets defenders.
Westbrook, alongside Jeff Green, carried the Thunder to a 123-120 win. Westbrook scored 38 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out nine assists for a Thunder team playing without Kevin Durant. Durant and the Nets’ Devin Harris both missed the game with knee sprains.
Westbrook caught fire and scored the Thunder’s last 13 points of triple overtime. Green paced Oklahoma City in regulation, finishing the game with 37 points.
Anthony Morrow’s running three-pointer as regulation expired tied the game, 93-93, and propelled arguably the best NBA game this season.
“It’s probably the game of the year so far in the NBA,” Avery Johnson said. “It’s too bad we were on the losing end.”
“It was about as hard a game as you could play,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Both teams played extremely well. It’s easy for me to stand up here and say one team had to lose. I give Avery Johnson credit, he is really turning that team around.”
The Nets had a chance to tie the game following Westbrook’s free-throws, but Jordan Farmar drove baseline and tried to squeeze a pass to the left corner. The pass was knocked away as time expired, preventing the Nets from getting off a shot.
While the game went three overtimes, it most likely should have ended in two. The Nets led, 110-107, with six seconds remaining, but Stephen Graham fouled Green in the process of a three-pointer.
Green flushed all three free-throws and sent the game to a third overtime.
“It was tough. We all knew what (Graham) was thinking,” Farmar said. “There was five seconds left, we foul they shoot two free-throws. Make or miss they have to foul us. Make or miss, now they have to score in two seconds instead of five. We understood that.
“Hindsight is 20-20, you can look back. We’ll move on with the decision and try and get better.”
Johnson was looking for Graham to foul, albeit not in the act of shooting. The coach took responsibility for the result.
“Graham’s foul is on me,” Johnson said.
This game marked the first triple-overtime contest for the Nets since a 130-122 loss to the Orlando Magic on Nov. 8, 1995. Oklahoma City, then the Seattle SuperSonics, last went three overtimes in 1990.
A great effort but a loss nonetheless. The Nets record drops to 6-13 and for Kris Humphries, the effort doesn’t cloud the fact that the Nets dropped another game.
“We’ve got to start getting wins,” Humphries said. Positive effort, at the end of the day it doesn’t say asterisk they played hard in this game, it was close here. It’s an ‘L’ or a ‘W.’ We put ourselves in a position to win, it’s time to win those games.”
“We’re in a hole. We’re all we’ve got to get out.”
The loss overshadows a career performance for Jordan Farmar, filling in for the injured Harris. Farmar scored a career-high 28 points and dished out nine assists in 51:45 of floor time. Farmar, Morrow, and Brook Lopez all played over 50 minutes in the team’s fourth game in five nights.
“Jordan did a great job for us,” Humphries said. “This is something new for him. He hasn’t played these kinds of minutes coming from the Lakers. We all know he can do it and step up when we need him to.”
In the first overtime, the Nets grabbed a 100-94 lead after a Morrow jumper through traffic, but the Thunder closed the first overtime on a 6-0 run. Westbrook converted on back-to-back jumpers to tie the game, 100-100.
Morrow’s running three-pointer at the end of regulation capped a furious finish in which the teams exchanged leads six times in the final two minutes.
Lopez’s free-throws gave the Nets a 90-89 lead with 51.4 seconds left, but the Thunder earned trips to the line on successive possessions to take a 93-90 lead.
Leading 91-90, Lopez had a questionable block on a Westbrook floater along the baseline that could have been whistled for goaltending. The Nets failed to capitalize on the ensuing possession, however.
The Nets used an extended 13-5 run to erase the Thunder’s nine-point lead.
The Nets endured a brutal third quarter, shooting 31.3 percent and getting outscored, 27-13.
Green gave the Thunder its largest lead when he buried a jumper, his third straight bucket, to give Oklahoma City a 71-62 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Westbrook highlighted the momentum shift, slipping between two Nets to convert on a one-handed putback slam.
The Westbrook dunk gave the Thunder a 52-51 lead, its first since the first quarter.
The Nets were poised to open up a double-digit lead before halftime, but Green knocked down a three-pointer from the right wing with 0.2 seconds left in the half to cut the Nets’ lead to 49-44.