Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha (2) in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Joe Johnson scored a season-high 33 points, Deron Williams added 19 points and 13 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets snapped Oklahoma City's 12-game home winning streak by beating the Thunder 110-93 Wednesday night in a game featuring the first ejection of Kevin Durant's career.
The Nets squandered a 23-point lead and allowed Oklahoma City to tie it at 85 before ripping off a 23-8 run to seize control right back. Durant was ejected near the end of the surge, arguing with Danny Crawford after the referee had already issued a technical foul against Kendrick Perkins.
Durant scored 27 points and Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 10 assists for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the third time at home this season.
Durant, the three-time scoring champion, had never before been ejected in his six NBA seasons but got tossed after Brooklyn rallied largely from the foul line. The Nets made 11 free throws in a span of just over 5 minutes, pulling away after Oklahoma City had finally fought all the way back.
Brook Lopez added 25 points as Brooklyn ended a seven-game losing streak in the series and got a win for interim coach P.J. Carlesimo against the team that fired him back in 2008.
The Thunder clamped down after trailing by 16 at halftime, rallying to pull within 71-68 when Westbrook finished off a 12-3 burst with a jumper from the left elbow with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Lopez powered his way in for a two-handed slam to stem the tide for Brooklyn, but Oklahoma City kept coming.
Durant and Kevin Martin connected on consecutive 3-pointers to finally even it up at 85 with 7:11 to play, only for Johnson to answer with a runner at the other end to put the Nets right back ahead and start the clinching run.
The Nets managed to get Carlesimo a rare win in Oklahoma City — something that proved difficult during his brief stretch on the Thunder sidelines.
Carlesimo was the coach when Oklahoma City got its franchise, leading the SuperSonics for their final season in Seattle and then going 1-12 in charge of the Thunder. He was fired and replaced — then on an interim basis — by Scott Brooks, who has overseen the team's rise into a championship contender.
Back when Carlesimo was in charge, Durant was starting his second year in the NBA and Westbrook was a rookie who had yet to break into the starting lineup. Now, they're both established All-Stars.
"For it to come together as quickly as it has, I think people believed that this was going to be a good team, with the nucleus they had and even starting out, the pieces," Carlesimo said beforehand. "Russell, of course, was a huge addition the first year here and ever since then, there's been good moves and they've tweaked it."
Carlesimo also singled out the additions of Thabo Sefolosha and Perkins — both after he was fired — as key steps in the franchise's rise.
"It's a team I feel closer to than a lot of other teams. Hopefully, we helped KD and Nick (Collison) a little bit and Russell a tiny bit that first year, but I think it's safe to say they've gone on and overcome whatever coaching they got from me," Carlesimo said, drawing laughs.
At the start, it looked like Carlesimo's new squad would run away with it against the Thunder, who started the day with the league's best record.
Johnson and Lopez combined to go 9 for 9 from the field to propel the Nets to a quick 27-11 lead, and Brooklyn tried to keep the hammer down by re-inserting Williams after they had committed three turnovers in a span of five possessions without him to start the second quarter.
Upon returning, Williams immediately set up Keith Bogans for a 3-pointer, then used a behind-the-back, bounce pass for an assist on Kris Humphries' jumper before nailing a 3-pointer of his own to push the lead out to 45-24. Brooklyn led by as much as 23 twice — including at 55-32 after Johnson drilled a 3-pointer off a touch pass from Gerald Wallace — before Westbrook and Serge Ibaka teamed up to score nine straight points to breathe some life into Oklahoma City.