Posted by Royce Young
Closing, it's hard to do.
That's the lesson for the young Thunder. A lesson they get a day to think about while they get ready for Game 5 in Oklahoma City Wednesday.
Oklahoma City saved its most erratic, incomplete game for Monday night, which of course was the first opportunity to finish off the Nuggets and move on to the next challenge. That sounds like I'm taking something away from the Nuggets, which I don't intend to. But I think we've gotten to the point where it's understood that the Thunder are the better team. On Monday, Denver finally found a bit of a groove and the Thunder lost theirs.
The Nuggets got a bunch of big contributions from Danilo Gallinari, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Ty Lawson -- you know, that formula that worked so well after the Melo trade -- to take down OKC 104-101 and force a Game 5. They talked about not wanting to let OKC dance on their home court Monday night. And they played like it.
The game was close throughout, and while the Thunder piled up stops, they never took advantage and stretched out to a lead of much more than four or five points. OKC played with fire the entire night, eventually letting the Nuggets turn on the propane with an 11-0 run to end the third and start the fourth quarter. Denver led through the fourth, with the difference swelling to as much as 10 with two minutes left. The Thunder wouldn’t die easily, though, with Kevin Durant dropping a couple 3s, Russell Westbrook scoring on a drive and Serge Ibaka hitting a late jumper. But the hole was too big for the Thunder to climb out of.
Westbrook had a chance to tie with 3.5 seconds left, but his desperation heave didn't fall. And finally, after five tries, the Nuggets beat the Thunder. Once again OKC's defense held Denver in check (the Nuggets shot just 38.6 percent) and the Nuggets struggled at the line. But between taking care of the ball and a couple big shots from Smith and Gallinari, Denver built up a lead in the fourth quarter for the first time in the series.
OKC almost looked like it was taking a win for granted early on. The intensity and razor sharp focus was missing in the first half, and the Thunder missed about 15 opportunities to stretch the game out to double-digits. They were getting the stops they needed, but just couldn't convert. Fifteen turnovers, bad shots and forced offense really ended up doing OKC in.
But again, this was new territory for them. That decisive closing game is the toughest to win because you're playing a desperate opponent. And OKC couldn't make enough plays to get it done.
The Nuggets did just enough to hang on and get a little of their mojo back. Is it enough to bring the series back to the Rockies? Eh, probably not. But it's at least a start. You can't be the first team to ever come back from 3-0 if you don't win Game 4. That would be step one. And the Nuggets took it Monday.
Denver steps up and holds OKC off for a night
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:44 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:00 am
Tags: 2011 First Round, 2011 NBA Playoff Previews, 2011 NBA Playoffs, 2011 Nuggets-Thunder, 2011 Playoffs, 2011 Thunder-Nuggets, 2011 WC First Round, 2011 WC First-Round, Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, George Karl, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Nene, Oklahoma City Thunder, Raymond Felton, Russell Westbrook, Scott Brooks, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler