Blog Entry

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
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.

Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: April 26, 2011 4:04 pm

Denver steps up and holds OKC off for a night

Wow! The Thunder played an awful game 4 and still nearly closed out this series with the Nuggets, and in Denver mind you. They are clearly the superior team in this series and I will be shocked if they don't close this out in their next game at home. I really thought the Nuggets were a much better team than they are showing. Or could it be the Thunder are simply much better than I thought? They have been very impressive in this series and look like they are poised to make a deep run into this year's playoffs. On paper the Kendrick Perkins trade has not lit up the stats sheet. But has the trade brought with it a new attitude to the Thunder? For the most part they seem to be playing with an attitude. I've not noticed this in prior years with this team. I really don't think Denver has much of a chance in the next game, but their back is against the wall, and they have a lot of talent and are a very deep team. Anything is possible. I'm just really impressed by this Thunder team.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:52 pm

Denver steps up and holds OKC off for a night

I sure would like to see this series go beyond a game 5.  It is one of the most intriguing in the first round of the playoffs.  But given the history of this series, I seriously doubt it will last any longer than one more game.  I was very glad to see Ty Lawson, Kenyon Martin, Danilo Gallinari, J. R. Smith, and the rest of the Denver team play for pride and not just give up in game 4.  But the task of going to OKC to pick up another win must be very daunting to this Denver team, given their position in this series, plus their recent experience playing there.  While the Nuggets looked OK in their game 4 win, I thought OKC was really, really off.  They were playing like they just didn't care.  This was not the team we saw in the first three games of this series.  They have a very good coach in Brooks and there is no way he will allow this apathy to extend into game 5.  That, along with their home court advantage, wil probably spell doom for the Nuggets.  Again, congratulations to the Nuggets for the win and for not losing hope.  Compete in game 5 like there is no tomorrow.  But game 5 should be it.

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