|Westbrook and Durant did something that two guys haven't done since two guys named Jordan and Pippen. (Getty Images)|
OKLAHOMA CITY -- There's a very, very fine line that separates the Thunder and the Nuggets. And you can basically draw it in between No. 35 and No. 0.
Oklahoma City has 'em. Denver does not.
Just like Game 5 in last season's opening round playoff series when Denver seemed to have things locked up, or Game 1 that the Thunder stole late, or Game 3 where the Thunder finished Denver in the last five minutes, the Nuggets watched Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook break their hearts. Durant, a career-high 51. Westbrook, 40. Thirty-nine of OKC's final 46. And all 13 in overtime. Oklahoma City 124, Denver 118.
"The game of basketball can be really mean to you," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "To have a great player take a game from you like that is heart-wrenching. It's just the bounce of the ball."
The Nuggets had it too. I mean really had it. They led by nine in the fourth quarter and seven with 5:39 left. The Thunder’s play-by-play from that point on: Durant made 3, Westbrook made layup, Durant made 3, Durant made layup, Ibaka made putback, Westbrook made jumper, Westbrook made jumper, Durant made 3, Durant made dunk. Where did the Nuggets turn? Chris Anderson took two 15-foot jumpers, for crying out loud.
People like to talk about “closers” in basketball, but it’s been pretty obvious as this theme has recurred in these games that the Thunder have not one, but two of them and the Nuggets don't have any. Granted, Denver played this game without Nene or Danilo Gallinari. But neither of those guys were able to step up in those moments last postseason either. The Nuggets tried to turn to Andre Miller, who was having a fantastic game. James Harden — who had a miserable offensive night — twice played him splendidly, staying down on Miller’s pump fakes and ended up forcing him into back-to-back traveling violations in overtime. Ty Lawson hit a big-time 3 to put Denver up three with 54 seconds left, but failed to his a pretty clean look at the end of regulation.
The Thunder, though, finished. Durant powered in a dunk with seven seconds left to send it to overtime. Westbrook drilled a free throw line jumper with 26 seconds left to ice it.
Said Durant, “A lot of people might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime.”
Take it to those extra five minutes. Durant was completely gassed, so Westbrook stepped up, hitting a 3 to kick things off and then a couple jumpers to keep the Thunder in front. Then Durant found his legs again finishing a fast break layup and hitting all four of his free throws. Those two scored all 13 of OKC's overtime points. Denver got their seven on two baskets from Arron Afflalo and one from Kosta Koufos. The Nuggets just didn’t know where to go for points. It wasn't very hard for OKC to figure it out.
Here's how wild this game was: Serge Ibaka has a triple-double -- 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks -- and it almost feels like a footnote. That's Ibaka's third double-digit block game of this season, in fact. (OKC is the first team EVER in NBA history to have a guy score 50, a guy score 40 and a guy finish with a triple-double.)
"He's been phenomenal man," Durant said. "It's just been fun to watch. You might not believe me but at the end coach said to press up on Afflalo and let him go to the rim. That sounds kind of weird, right?"
But that's an afterthought when you consider Westbrook and Durant did something nobody has done since Pippen and Jordan (two teammates scoring 40 or more). Westbrook and Durant actually had more points than seven teams tonight. The Heat, who were fantastic in a win over Orlando, we beat by Westbrook and Durant 91-90. Are you following me here?
Karl said after the game that in a lot of ways the Nuggets won the game. And they did. They played better than Oklahoma City. They executed better, worked the ball better and defended better. But they didn't have Batman and Batman. (There's no Robin here.) They had a group of sidekicks all trying to combine to finish out the superheroes. Just didn't have enough. Just couldn't close those guys from OKC.
Like Karl said, the game of basketball can be really mean to you.
Nah, just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.