OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder fans knew all about Kevin Durant and James Harden, booing the former Oklahoma City stars from the pregame introductions on.
But chances are they weren’t ready for what they got from Patty Mills.
Mills snapped out of a shooting slump and joined the Nets stars in powering a 120-96 rout of the Thunder at Paycom Center on Sunday.
Durant poured in a game-high 33 points with eight rebounds, his league-high seventh 30-point outing this season. Harden added 16 points, 13 assists and six boards to get the Nets’ offense humming smoothly. They both heard jeers from the start, their first game together in OKC since Harden was traded away in 2012.
Throw in a solid performance from the bench — including Mills’ 29 points and LaMarcus Aldridge’s 15 points and eight rebounds — and it was more than enough for the Nets to beat the Thunder and finish a stellar road trip.
The Nets (10-4) have won eight of their past nine.
They left Brooklyn on Nov. 4, embarking on a season-long road trip sitting in fourth place. But after polishing off a 5-1 trip, they return home in first place, just behind the Wizards atop the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think it’s been a good trip. I thought we, for the most part, have continued to improve and, and work at our offense and our defense,” coach Steve Nash had said before the game. “And if we can close it out tonight, 5-1 would be a great result.”
They did just that. About the only dark cloud ruining this silver lining was an injury to Joe Harris. He checked out with 3:05 left in the first half and never returned, ruled out with a sprained left ankle.
But by that time, the Nets led 55-43.
The game never got closer than seven the rest of the night, or eight in the second half. The Nets held OKC at arm’s length to win their third straight game, returning home with momentum for Tuesday’s clash with the league-leading Warriors.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — who had referred to himself as “the black Steve Nash,” in homage to his fellow Canadian — led OKC with 23 points. But the Nets took advantage of the Thunder’s lack of outside shooting, and held them to 40 percent overall and 14 of 45 from deep.
“This is a well-coached, young team that’s won, I believe, four in a row,” Nash had warned. “They have a lot of belief, they drive the ball to the basket, and they defend as a group, so they do a good job protecting their paint. Then offensively, there’s a lot of freedom for them to just go and make plays, and that’s the confidence that’s allowed them to go on a winning streak here.”
The Nets snapped that four-game run by OKC. With Harris sidelined, Mills stepped in and picked up the slack. Coming in just 2 of 13 from deep in his prior three games, he went 9 of 12 against the Thunder, shattering the Nets team record for 3-pointers off the bench — a record he’d had a share of.
Trailing 21-16 after a Luguentz Dort 3-pointer, the Nets reeled off nine unanswered, capped by an Aldridge 3-pointer for a 25-21 lead.
The Nets fell behind again, allowing a 9-0 spurt and trailing 37-33 on an Aleksej Pokusevski putback. But Brooklyn mounted an extended 20-4 run to take command once and for all.
Consecutive 3-pointers from Mills and Aldridge capped the spurt and put the Nets ahead by 12.
When Mills drew a charge on Dort (20 points), it sent the Thunder forward to the bench with a fourth foul with 2:46 left in the half. Considering Dort’s defensive prowess, and how vital Harden’s penetration is to Brooklyn’s offense, it was huge for the Nets.
A Harden three-point play sent the Nets into the locker room up 61-48 — their biggest halftime lead on the road this season.
The Nets built on it in the third, with Durant’s free throws padding it to 90-74 going into the fourth. It just grew from there.
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