3 key takeaways from Nets’ disappointing loss to Thunder

The Brooklyn Nets had an opportunity to close their five-game road trip on a high note in Oklahoma City Tuesday night. They appeared on their way to accomplishing that goal when they entered the half with a 10-point lead.

However, a second-half collapse would leave the Nets with a sour taste in their mouths as they travel home following a 121-107 loss to the Thunder.

3 key takeaways from Nets’ disappointing loss to Thunder

3. Mikal Bridges continues offensive breakout with another 30-point night

Bridges’ offensive impact since joining Brooklyn has turned heads across the league. The 26-year-old continued his brilliance on that end in Tuesday’s loss, scoring 34 points on 11-of-23 shooting. His second-half effort was the only thing that kept the Nets in the game as he accounted for 18 of Brooklyn’s 45 points in the final two periods.

The performance marks Bridges’ sixth 30-point performance in his last nine games. He reached that total just twice in four and a half seasons with the Suns. In 14 games with Brooklyn, the former lottery pick is averaging 26.4 points on 50.6 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent shooting from three.

2. Brooklyn’s change pick-and-roll coverage backfires

Following a poor defensive start to the new-look era, the Nets tweaked their pick-and-roll coverage at points during the road trip. After predominantly playing a switch-everything scheme with center Nic Claxton this season, Brooklyn mixed in some drop coverage while only switching screens one through four.

Up until Friday, the road trip had coincided with a complete defensive turnaround as the new-look Nets jumped from 29th in defensive rating over their first seven games to 1st over the last six. Their drop coverage had held up during that span, allowing Claxton to remain in the paint to assist with rim protection and rebounding. But the change in strategy came back to bite Brooklyn against Oklahoma City’s talented backcourt of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.

Claxton frequently found himself out of position in the pick-and-roll. That indecisiveness, among other things, led to a 66-38 Oklahoma City advantage in points in the paint. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 34 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Giddey torched the Nets to the tune of 15 points and 10 assists.

1. Abysmal third-quarter shifts momentum

Brooklyn led by 14 points with 30 seconds left in the second quarter when Dorian Finney-Smith missed a wide-open dunk. Oklahoma City would score on two straight possessions going the other way to cut the deficit to 10 at the half. That shift in momentum bled into the third quarter.

The Thunder exploded for 38 points on 15-of-31 shooting from the field and 8-of-15 from three in the period. Luguentz Dort shot a perfect 5-of-5 from deep in the frame on his way to 24 points and a team-high plus-15 for the night.

On the other end, the Nets’ offense hit a wall as they shot 3-of-16 from the field and 0-7 from three in the third. Those struggles came with a shift towards an iso-heavy style. After recording 19 assists in the first half, Brooklyn registered just one in the third quarter and five in the fourth.

The loss bumps the Nets a half-game back of the New York Knicks to sixth place. Brooklyn will travel back for a four-game homestand with matchups against Sacramento, Denver and Cleveland twice.

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