The Brooklyn Nets open their season-long 7-game road trip Wednesday night looking for their first road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2014.
For the Brooklyn Nets, the tough road starts in the nation’s heartland.
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The Nets open a season-long seven-game road trip Wednesday night against an Oklahoma City Thunder squad that has won the last two meetings between the teams in gut-wrenching fashion.
The Thunder (41-26) beat the Nets 114-112 at Barclays Center on Dec. 5 when Paul George went off for 25 points in the fourth quarter and canned a pull-up 3 with 3.1 seconds left to cap OKC’s closing 7-0 run to overcome Brooklyn’s 23-point third-quarter lead.
The last time the teams played at Chesapeake Energy Center, Brooklyn squandered a 15-point third-quarter edge and lost 109-108 when Russell Westbrook scored on a drive with 3.3 seconds to go.
The Nets (36-33) have lost to the Thunder the last four times the teams have met on U.S. soil — Brooklyn did beat OKC 100-95 at Mexico City in December 2017 — and haven’t won at The ‘Peake since November 2014.
Both teams come in off impressive defensive efforts in victories on Monday night.
Oklahoma City picked up an important road win over the Utah Jazz, posting a 98-89 victory while holding the Jazz to just 36.4 percent shooting overall and 13-for-43 (30.2 percent) from 3-point range, opening a 50-37 halftime lead and hanging on for the victory.
But what Brooklyn did Monday night to the Detroit Pistons was elite.
The Nets beat Detroit 103-75 — the second-lowest point total in an NBA game this season, ahead of only the 68 points the Jazz scored in a Nov. 14 loss to the Dallas Mavericks — while the Pistons’ 27.8 percent shooting was the worst single-game performance in the league thus far in 2018-19.
There have only been two other sub-30 percent shooting performances this year. The Memphis Grizzlies shot 29.8 percent in an opening-night loss to the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors hit 29.5 percent in a road loss to the Orlando Magic on Dec. 28.
But while Brooklyn comes in with four straight wins, the Thunder have been scuffling a bit of late.
Oklahoma City has won just three of its last nine games and hasn’t posted consecutive victories in more than a month, since winning four straight games from Feb. 5-11. The Thunder have also lost two of their last three at home.
The Nets are 15-17 on the road this season and are 4-5 as visitors against Western Conference opponents, including wins over two of the West’s top three teams in the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets.
Brooklyn enters play as the No. 1-ranked team against 3-point shooting, with opponents hitting just 33.9 percent against the Nets this season, while Oklahoma City is shooting just 34.5 percent from deep this year, 23rd-best in the NBA.
But the Thunder do the little things well, leading the NBA in points off turnovers (19.8 per game), while ranking third in second-chance points (15.1 per game) and fifth in both fast-break points and points in the paint (18.3 and 52.5 per game, respectively).
Oklahoma City plays fast — third in the league at 104.05 possessions per game — and the Thunder defend well, with the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA at 105.7 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Here are three things to watch as the Nets take on the Thunder.