Playing without Moses Brown (rest) for the first game of the season, the Oklahoma City Blue suffered a devastating blow in Monday’s 121-115 overtime loss to the Long Island Nets. The Blue are now entangled in a sea of uncertainty , currently bunched in a wave of 8-4 teams, slotting from the fourth to sixth seeds in the league. Oklahoma City has been in murky waters lately, now dropping their last 3-of-4 contests. Long Island’s season was resuscitated in their win, holding a seed of hope with a 5-7 record.
Omer Yurtseven started his weekday strong showing no signs of fatigue. The 7-footer scraped together the Blue’s first 11 points off a pair of alley-oop finishes and a standing three — helping to keep this game close through six. Oklahoma City’s bench rattled off a list of scorers upon Yurtseven’s removal, swooping in to charge a 10-2 run. The first period closed in emphatic fashion with a Ryan Woolridge 21-foot floater. Long Island’s slippery handle with the basketball cost them, as their 8 quarters in the period netted the Blue 11 points.
Yurtseven’s thrashing continued, notching the 20-point mark three minutes into the quarter. The Blue’s quick push resulted in a double-digit lead but Long Island wasn’t having any of it. Runs swung back and forth for the ladder part of the period as leads sought as high as 15 for the Blue and dwindled down low to 2 for a 57-55 OKC lead.
Long Island claimed their first lead since the first quarter two minutes into the half. Oklahoma City relied back on their rock in Yurtseven punishing the rim to reclaim the lead, but sides got deadlocked. The Nets looked to grab hold of this game leading 5 with under a minute to go, yet a 7-2 Blue run cut any real circulation leading into the fourth at 85-85. Differences in play emerged for the first time in the third. Long Island shot 2-of-10 inside while piling on 4-of-7 tries outside. Oklahoma City let off polar opposites, checking in 7-of-13 shots in the paint while going 1-of-5 from distance.
A 1-of-4 start for Oklahoma City garnered Long Island an easy 9-2 spurt in the first two minutes. The Nets’ lead stuck at two possessions until the midway point when Zavier Simpson completed a tightrope drill to net OKC two points, down just three. Just two possessions later, Zavier Simpson intercepted an errant pass that yielded a Jaylen Hoard free throw — cash. The Nets never folded matching near every Blue bucket, but off a Yurtseven kickout to Antonius Cleveland, this game was tied 108-108 with 2 minutes left. Off an exchange of buckets, the Blue took their first lead after Cleveland strolled down and hit Yurtseven for an alley-oop — only to be squashed by a Nets layup. Bearing only 30 seconds, Oklahoma City sat with the ball until Vincent Edwards slashed right baseline and came too strong off a layup. With the ball advanced and no shot clock remaining the Nets were locked on to taking the last attempt of regulation — offensive foul. Vincent Edwards yet again got involved in the play, crashing down off a screen. In one of the most pivotal challenges of the season the officiating crew determined the call stands. Antonius Cleveland tried to call game, taking on a 15 second iso that produces an 11-foot pullup — off the mark.
In the Blue’s first two-minute overtime, every possession would count. Johnson buried a layup to put Long Island up two. Produced by a series of barren Blue plays, the Nets built a cushion with a 4-point lead bearing only 35 seconds. Oklahoma City made it evident the three was necessary. In an improvised play, Vincent Edwards and Antonius Cleveland played hot potato in the right corner, ultimately whiffing a corner three — game.
Oklahoma City wheeled out near identical stats on the day going 44.6% on field goals (LIN: 45.1%), and 24.2% on threes (LIN: 26.5%.) And as things played out — that was their downfall.
Moses Brown’s absence from the team remained obvious defensively, giving up 56 points in the paint. Long Island’s prominence on penetrations and close shots cost the Blue their 2nd biggest outburst inside — only topped by Greensboro’s 58 point input. Though Oklahoma City did prevent threes, Long Islands baffling 17 made free throws crossed out their mistakes.
As fans have figured out through the course of the year, Moses Brown isn’t the only driving force at the center position. Omer Yurtseven filled right between the gashes, providing a career-high 34 points (12-of-18 FG), coupled with 13 rebounds. The 7-footer ran around setting off-ball screens all game, using openings in the defense to hit both of his three point tries while posting up down low for 10 makes. Yurtseven baked up offense on his own majority of the time, posting up over his 6-foot-8 matchup and ripped through defenders when the Nets’ employed a constant double-team. Antonius Cleveland racked up 17 points Monday, though his 4-of-14 showing didn’t reflect the statline. The forwards shift from outside-oriented play to more interior work would be fine, though his 1-of-5 outing from deep caved in any hope of rejuvenation. Cleveland’s shot selection became a tad nettling, spinning into off-balance push-shots, and chucking a contested mid-range to cap regulation. Jaylen Hoard made noise with 17 points (4-of-7 FG) and 6 boards. Hoard’s athleticism in a 6-foot-8 frame is uncanny for the G-League — he recognizes that. The forward clashed down low for 6 shots at the stripe, hitting 5. Phil Booth made his breakout game with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Booth is the lone man who originally wasn’t on Oklahoma City’s 15-man roster, actually being swooped up after Chasson Randle was acquired by Orlando. The bouncy Villanova graduate sourced similar play to Randle, going inside on penetrations while putting in a steady 3-of-7 looks downtown. Aleksej Pokusevski remained a mystery throughout the morning, playing just 12 minutes for 0 points (0-2 FG), 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Coach Gibbs had no statement (to my knowledge) postgame on Pokusevski’s status, though it is likely due to his foot injury from a week prior, or simple resting purposes.
The Oklahoma City Blue (8-4) lost likely their last handout of the season Monday. They will kickstart their three-game gauntlet to end the year. Their first matchup begins Wednesday against the Raptors 905 (9-3,) moving on to face the top dog Erie Bayhawks (10-2), and Santa Cruz Warriors (9-3) to close the season.