George Karl got his wish. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook most definitely did not combine for 72 points in this game. Far from it, in fact.
Don’t think he’s going to call it a success though.
Despite holding Oklahoma City’s dynamite tandem to just 44 points, the Nuggets still lost 106-89. Reason being? There are, in fact, eight other players on the team that can, in fact, do things. James Harden led the way with 18 off the bench, Serge Ibaka had 12, Nick Collison 10 and Daequan Cook six. In Game 1, Durant and Westbrook scored 67 of the Thudner’s total points. Tonight, just 41 percent.
It’s pretty clear to me that when Durant and Westbrook play really well, the Thunder are good. When two, even just one, other players show up, the Thunder are really good. One reason being, Oklahoma City is playing some defense. Other than the first six minutes of Game 1, the Thunder’s defense has been good. Tonight, it was terrific. The Nuggets shot just 39.1 percent from the field and scored only 89 points. We’re talking about the top one or two offense in the league here. And not only did the Thunder defend, but check the glass: 54-31 in favor of OKC. With 17 offensive boards.
Durant and Westbrook are going to give you something solid every night. And for the most part, that defense is going to be there too. But when you add in a third, fourth and fifth scorer to things, how can you beat the Thunder, especially in their building? Karl looked just short of baffled in his postgame comments. He had no idea what to do with them.
It really was sort of a dominant performance from the start. OKC held a 26-point lead in the second quarter and the closest Denver ever got was 10, once being late in the second half. The Nuggets did a nice job forcing Durant outside of the paint, but his first two buckets inside the 3-point line pretty much broke Denver’s back. It got to 86-76 with eight minutes left, but KD dropped two shots, extending the Thunder’s lead back to 14. The game wasn’t over there, but darn close to it.
As Nick Collison said though, this is a game to four and the Thunder have two points. Now it gets tough. Now the Thunder have to win in someone else’s building. Taking care of business at home wasn’t easy by any means, but it was what they were supposed to do. The Thunder are in a good spot though because the Nuggets have to win four of five against a team they’ve dropped four in a row to now. With two of those having to come in OKC. It’s not over by any stretch, but it’s certainly a good start.
- The Nuggets tried to switch things up by going small in the second half, starting Raymond Felton next to Ty Lawson, plus with Al Harrington play a lot at the 4. OKC countered small and handled things fine.
- Westbrook had seven turnovers tonight and was definitely reckless. But he played a pretty solid game overall. He hit some shots, moved the ball well and played a pretty smart game. His turnovers were the kind you can sort of live with. They weren’t backbreakers or anything.
- Loved Scott Brooks sticking with Daequan Cook for extended minutes in the fourth. The Nuggets were small and Cook really was stretching them out. Really good move.
- The very first possession of the game, the Nuggets doubled Durant on a pick-and-roll. KD calmly dribbled a little and found Westbrook who dropped a 3. It was a good sign.
- I thought maybe the biggest shot of the game was the 3 by Cook after Denver had cut it to 11. This game really had that feel that 10 was the cushion for the Thunder and if it got under that, things would get tight. But every time Denver sniffed it, OKC covered their nose.
- Perk was excellent on Nene tonight. Nene was just 2-8 from the floor and did all his damage at the free throw line. There really wasn’t anything easy inside for the Denver big man.
- Who says KD can’t play defense? The two guys he guarded tonight — Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari — were a combined 3-14 for 11 points.
- Here’s a fun stat: Of all teams in NBA history that go up 2-0, 94 percent go on to win the series. Let that freak you out for the next 15 minutes.
- Thirty 3-point attempts for the Thunder. You don’t see that every day.
- Perk got hit with a flagrant early in the first quarter on Wilson Chandler. It was a hard foul for sure, but it was one of those that I think was called just because Chandler jumped high and fell down hard. Pretty sketchy, but then again, it was just a sign of things to come with this crew. Perk just called it a “playoff foul.”
- Scott Brooks on Perk’s added toughness: “I’m sure when he takes his kids to school he does it with attitude.”
- Kenyon Martin laid a pretty blatant shove at mid-court on Serge Ibaka in the first quarter for some reason. It knocked Ibaka down, earned Martin a technical and gave OKC a free point. I don’t know what message he was trying to send with it other than maybe, “I’m not smart.”
- Jimmy Goldstein was in the house again. He’s been to every Thunder home playoff game so far.
- How about that double-spin move layup from Russ? Looked like me hitting the “B” button on Madden ’95.
- There was definitely some iffy officiating throughout this game. Both ways. I actually thought the Thunder benefited quite a bit more from the officiating. It was like there would be a bad call, then a worse make-up call and then a new horrible call. We were stuck in a vicious cycle.
- This is slightly crazy, I realize, but I’m almost more anxious during a game where the Thunder has a big lead than I am in one that’s close. When OKC is up big all I can do is stare at the scoreboard hoping that a) the score holds and b) the clock jumpers from 9:54 to 1:54 by the time I look at it again.
- I got hit right in the face by a t-shirt fired out of a cannon thing. Had my head down typing and it drilled me. Screw you, Balon Blaster.
- Perk really stinks at layups.
- When the Nuggets went with the two point guard lineup, Lawson covered Thabo and basically ignored him entirely. You could tell that Scott Brooks was going back and forth as to what to do. Thabo was playing really good defense on Lawson, but was here was an opportunity to exploit Karl’s adjustment by going with Harden.
- Loved this tweet I got tonight from @AlexR: “if the THUNDER win a title, does Peter Rabbit get a ring too? He’s on the court more than Mullens and Aldrich.”
- To those of you that wouldn’t put on the blue t-shirt because you didn’t want to cover up your Affliction shirt or graphic button-up, don’t come to the next game, OK? We can do without you.
I really was convinced this game would get close at some point. The Nuggets fought back a little before halftime — I thought it was coming. They got close in the fourth — I thought it was coming. But between terrific Thunder defense, otustanding rebounding and just enough offensive execution, OKC held the Nuggets’ head under water the entire game. It really was about as ideal a performance in Game 2 as you could hope for.
Kinda hard to make an excuse after this one. The Thunder just dominated from the opening tip. Nothing controversial about it.
Next up: The Thunder did their part at home. Now it’s on to Denver where things get tougher Saturday night.