Blog Entry

OKC survives late scare from Nuggets to go up 3-0

Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:22 am
Posted by Royce Young

The Thunder’s up three games to none over Denver. They walked into an incredibly hostile place and pulled out an unbelievably gritty win to put themselves in an excellent position to finish this series and move on to the second round.

But, whoa boy, it did not come easy.

(Remember, the Thunder won the game. They’re up 3-0. Remember that.)

Oklahoma City did a pretty admirable job of withstanding a barrage of Denver free throws in the third quarter which left the Nuggets with a 73-71 lead heading into the fourth. The Nuggets had every drop of momentum at that point, and looked to be charging their way to a big, series-lengthening win.

The Thunder didn’t execute by any means, but behind four straight stops and holding Denver without a bucket for almost five minutes, OKC stretched out to a comfortable lead late in the game. Russell Westbrook dropped a big shot. The Thunder dominated the glass. It was a textbook close for a team on the road.

And then Kendrick Perkins decided he wanted to throw a pretty stupid pass.

With 40 seconds left and the Thunder ahead by eight, Perk attempted to find Serge Ibaka with a full-court heave that fell innocently out of bounds. The Nuggets had life. After a couple missed free throws and a couple J.R. Smith 3-pointers, the Thunder found themselves only ahead by three, 97-94, with 10.5 seconds left and the Nuggets in possession.

Whoa. Boy. It all happened in such a whirl that it was almost like it didn't happen. How did a game go from 10 to three just like that? Could the Thunder really erase all that hard work in just a few seconds?

The ball would find Smith once again, and he tried to get James Harden to bite on a pump before going up for the shot. I'm sure, depending on which way your colors fall, you saw the play a different way. Smith clearly wanted the foul. The 20,000 people in the Pepsi Center were looking for it. But ref Derrick Stafford was having none of it. (You be the judge on it .)

Point is, the Thunder tried to completely crap away an incredible playoff win. They didn’t though. They’re still up 3-0 and in position to close this out Monday night. And the reasons they're winning are stops and rebounding. They've executed those two things superbly.

Offensively, both Westbrook and Kevin Durant never got entirely on track; going a combined 13-37 for 49 points. Much like Game 2, though, the Thunder found life in one of the oft overlooked role players. This time it was Serge Ibaka stepping up with 22 huge points, 16 even huger rebounds and four bigger than huge blocks. 

The Nuggets shot just 37 percent, but OKC was actually worse, shooting 36 percent. The game came down to free throws, where Denver blew 15 of them. What reared its ugly head again for the Nuggets, though, was the lack of a go-to scorer late in the game. They went five minutes without a basket late in the fourth and looked entirely lost. A fair bit of that can be credited to the Thunder's ability to guard, though.

Sans the last 40 seconds, OKC’s defense in the fourth quarter was pretty much unreal. The Nuggets had no idea where to go with the ball and couldn’t find even an inch of open floor for a clean look. The Thunder weren’t scoring much either, but it was a point here, a basket there and before you knew it, OKC had taken a two point lead to eight. And, so we thought, locked up the game.

Obviously, OKC didn’t get the memo this morning that NBA games do, in fact, last 48 minutes and not 47. I think the Thunder mentally checked out with 45 seconds left and started the party a bit early.

All that doesn’t matter, though. In the end, all it changes is how people like me have to recap the game. Because the Thunder’s up three games to none. They could’ve won 2-0 on a Kendrick Perkins’ fadeaway jumper and all that matters is that they had more points than Denver. In the NBA Playoffs, it’s about surviving these situations, and the Thunder stepped up in a scary moment, at a scary place, and against a completely desperate team.

The Nuggets knew Saturday night was pretty much do or die. They were the wounded dog trying to fight for it's life. That’s a tough environment to win in, especially for a young group that had never done such a thing. But OKC rose to the challenge and put the Nuggets away, and maybe the series, with defense.


Since: Jun 11, 2007
Posted on: April 24, 2011 7:30 pm

OKC survives late scare from Nuggets to go up 3-0

The win in Denver over the Nuggets by the Thunder was very imoressive.  That's a tough place to play for anybody.  Congratulations to the Thunder.  They have most likely ended this series with the Nuggets.  While the Nuggets could very well win game four in Denver, the return trip to Oklahoma will almost certainly end this series.  The Nuggets have not played well in Oklahoma.  I'm really curious how far this Thunder team can go.  Was the addition of Pekins really what the doctor ordered?  It's starting to look like it was.  I must say I'm very impressed how this is working out for them.  While Perkins doesn't put up huge numbers, his presence seems to have given this young team a killer instinct.  They're alot different, for the better, than when the season began.  The OKC fans must just be ecstatic over the development of this team.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 24, 2011 6:54 pm

OKC survives late scare from Nuggets to go up 3-0

This most likely takes all the air out of the Nuggets' balloon.  I really liked their chances in game three of this series at home.  They almost pulled it off to remain alive in this series.  I think they will now see game 4 as irrelevant.  They would still have to go to OKC if they win facing a Thunder team with 3 wins.  And the Thunder dismantled the Nuggets in OKC in the first two games of this series.  That would be a very intimidating scenario for Denver to face.  Denver has a really good team, but I'm just not sure you can prosper in an NBA playoff environment without a superstar or two.  And that seems the way the better teams are heading for the future.  It will be interesting to see where Denver goes from here.  Not sure where they might look if they are wanting to add a superstar in the off season.  Oh, the Thunder are looking pretty impressive thus far in the playoffs.  Denver is a good team, and OKC is pretty much manhandling them.  The addition of Kendrick Perkins may well have been the final piece to their puzzle.  It will be very interesting to see how they do in the next round of these playoffs.  I hate to say this, but the Thunder Nuggets series is done.

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