As Denver inbounded the ball with 17 seconds left and Oklahoma City clinging to a one point lead, we were all thinking the same thing. Not again, not again, not again…
But it happened. Again.
Carmelo Anthony hit an impossible runner in the lane with five seconds left, lifting the Nuggets to a 114-113 win over the Thunder. But two possessions really stand out in this ballgame like Kevin James with his shirt off. The possession with the pathetic kick call on Russell Westbrook and the last play by OKC.
First, the last play. Everybody knew the ball was going to Kevin Durant. And why shouldn’t it? That’s who I would’ve drawn up the final shot for. But on the inbounds pass to Westbrook, Nene switched on him. So Russell Westbrook, one of the quickest, most explosive guards in the league, has a 6-foot-11, 250 pound monster on him with the lane cleared out. Instead of recognizing this, the young rookie ran the play he was supposed to. The play is designed for KD, so I’m going to pass it to KD. The result? A 40-foot fadeaway heave by Durant that clanked off the rim. I guess we’ll just snap our fingers and say darn because RW is a rookie learning the ropes, but dang. Freaking dang.
Next, the “kick ball” with OKC down one with 40 seconds left. Look, I understand officials make bad calls. They’re human and they get a lot more right than wrong. I know I’d screw up a ton. But my biggest beef with officiating is the Out of Position Call. The one where the official behind the play with 16 people skewing his view decides to blow his whistle three seconds after the play to make a definitive, exaggerated call. And that’s exactly what happened here. Carmelo drove the lane and lost control of the ball. The ball took two bounces and Westbrook poked it to separate it from him and Melo. Westbrook scooped it up and took a step en route to a dunk and a one-point lead for OKC but that’s when the gray shirt with absolutely no clear view of the play blew his little whistle. That wasn’t really the difference, but a bad call nonetheless.
Like I’ve said, we’ve come a long way with this because back in December, I’m feeling pretty good about a one point loss to a 33-16 team. But not tonight. This should have been a win. No Chauncey Billups, no Kenyon Martin and a 17-point lead in the first half. Granted, OKC played well. 50 percent from the field, plus five on the boards, not too many turnovers and a one-point loss to a 33-16 team. But for some reason, I’ve just got a bad taste about it.
But since I’m pathetically optimistic, let’s look at some of the good. Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant. KD put up 31 on 10-19 shooting and also had eight rebounds and seven assists. Uh, he’s good. Jeff Green was solid with 24 and five and was 3-4 from downtown, but took just one free throw. One! Westbrook had 20 points, five assists and four rebounds. Those three guys were great, again. It’s so fun watching those three evolve and turn into a deadly trio. I can’t even imagine what they’ll be like in three years.
The 13-0 fastbreak run was wonderful. OKC was playing great, playing loose and stretching out to a 17-point lead. How-eva! Why is it that the Thunder can’t close first halves? This seems like a little trend here. The Thunder will go on a 12-2 run or something to grab a nice 12-point cushion with three minutes till chat time, but for some reason they trade buckets for a few possessions, then watch the other guys go on a 6-0 spurt to close the margin to eight or so. And most times, it carries over into the third. Instead of starting the second half with a 14-point lead, OKC is now up eight and two quick buckets to start the third from the bad guys and it’s a four-point game and you’re in a dogfight. It’s frustrating.
Another thing I didn’t like was Earl Watson matching up with J.R. Smith in the fourth. Earl loves that pesky, body-up, lean on you defense where he tries to poke at the ball and frustrate his guy to the point of freaking out and throwing the ball out of bounds just to get away from him. I know it’s because Watson is undersized and it’s his way of guarding a bigger guy, and he does a nice job for the most part. But against a guy like Smith, it doesn’t work. Smith needed two dribbles and he was around Watson for a wide open jumper. Or an on-the-ball screen to brush Watson off and there’s a free 20-footer for Smith. Scott Brooks finally put Westbrook back in the game to defend Smith and Russell did a nice job keeping him in front of him. Just three or four possessions too late with that sub.
It was another poor defensive game for OKC. The Nuggs shot 50.5 percent and had about 75 dunks. Seriously, Nene maybe had 25 on his own. I’ll have to check my DVR, but I don’t know if he scored on anything other than a flush. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but they seriously had a crap ton of dunks. At points the Thunder got the stop they needed, which was good. If they didn’t get a few of those, it would have been an eight-point loss. But too many second chances for the Nuggets and too many open looks for Smith and Anthony.
A few quick hits:
- It was nice to have Joe Smith back just because, well, I don’t know why. But I like Joe Smith for some reason.
- Kyle Weaver needs to learn how to score. And by “score” I mean, knock down wide the freak open jump shots. But I did think he played solid defense in the most minutes he’s played as a pro. I think he’s the best option to replace Desmond this year (unless Presti makes a move).
- Nobody misses more shots from zero feet than Nenad Krstic. He worked hard on the glass and got some second chances, but for the love of Courtney Paris, put one of those point blankers in.
- It only took five possessions, but the Thunder finally figured out Denver’s trap in the third quarter. Krstic flashed to the top of the key and knocked down a jumper and then Earl dribbled to one side and fired a bullet to Green for a dunk. Too bad they didn’t understand that after one or two tries.
- My wife came in and saw The Birdman and said, “Oh my gosh. Are Robert Swift and that guy in a competition for ugliest player in the NBA? What in the Dennis Rodman is going on there?”
- Brian Davis and Grant Long were in love with “The Birdman” puns tonight. “He didn’t fly high enough there.” “The Birdman soaring for a dunk.” “He flapped his wings to grab that rebound.” “Back to the nest.” “Yeah, he’s the one with the feathers.” Hilarious guys. Seriously, really good stuff there.
- And as soon as the score clicked over to 111-111 I thought BD might have to change pants. No way he was missing this one. “Triple stick mans on the board for both teams.” Nothing gets by B-Diddy.
All in all, it was a good game and more fuel for the “I freaking hate Denver” fire. Hopefully, the Thunder can pick themselves up and dust themselves off for Friday night’s game against Portland. Oden v. Durant!