Denver must really hate Kevin Durant.
Whatever the Nuggets seem to do, they can’t beat the guy. The last time Denver visited Oklahoma City, Durant scored 41, including the final 15 points to bring OKC back from the dead to seal an opening round playoff win. This time, he one-upped himself going for a career-high 51 in overtime leading the Thunder to a wild, insane, ridiculous, crazy, cray 124-118 win over the Nuggets.
Every time the Thunder looked to be fading, looked to be sliding away, Durant stepped up with another big shot. The 3 to steady things with five minutes left and OKC down seven. The other 3, responding to a Denver basket that brought OKC within three. The other other 3 that cut it to two with 30 seconds left. And then the game-tying dunk to send it to overtime.
“I was really going to try and end the game and shoot the 3,” KD said. “It might’ve been a bad idea, but Chris Anderson is a great shot blocker and I think if I would’ve shot that one he would’ve got it. He pressed up on me and I just tried to get a lane to the basket.”
But where do you really start with this one? Any time you can put the phrase, “best regular season game in Oklahoma City history,” it kind of makes it difficult to summarize. So let’s put it this way: KD had 51 on just 28 shots, Russell Westbrook had 40 points and nine assists (and only two turnovers in 43 minutes) and Serge Ibaka finished with a triple-double 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks. Basically, to recap: Holy crap.
There’s a very fine line that has separated the Nuggets and the Thunder the last six times they’ve played. And that line is drawn between OKC having No. 0 and No. 35, and the Nuggets not. Because just like Game 5 when Denver seemed to have things locked up, the Nuggets 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 ‘em, and the Nuggets don’t. 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. The Nuggets didn’t.
Take it to the extra five minutes. Durant was completely gassed, so Westbrook stepped up and hit a 3 to start things, and then a jumper and then huge jumper to basically seal it with 26 seconds left. In overtime, either Durant or Westbrook scored all of OKC’s points. Or 39 of the Thunder’s final 46, for that matter. In overtime, the Nuggets got two baskets from Arron Afflalo and one from Kosta Koufos. They just didn’t know where to go for points. OKC didn’t have a hard time figuring it out.
“A lot of people might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime,” Durant said.
It was one of those games that when the final horn sounds, you know you saw something special. A guy with 51, another guy with 40 and another guy with a triple-double using blocks. One of those nights in OKC you don’t forget about. Unless you’re a Nugget fan. KD and Westbrook continue to haunt their dreams.
George Karl put it this way: “The game of basketball can be really mean to you.”
Nah, just Kevin Durant.
- First time ever in NBA history a team had players with 50 points, 40 points and a triple-double. And the first time two teammates scored 40 or more since Pippen and Jordan.
- KD on scoring 51: “For us to get that win, that feels better. But 51 is pretty cool. As a kid it’s something that you dream about.”
- This game had the runs. The Nuggets went on a 14-2 one. Then OKC went on a 20-0 run spanning the second and third quarters. Then Denver came back with a 10-1 one to start the fourth. The game was completely crazy and that was before we got to the final five minutes.
- Karl also 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 win masks that the Thunder played absolutely abhorrent transition defense. And really just defense in general. The Nuggets scored 25 or more every quarter and got things easy. They scored 72 of their 118 in the paint. Took 101 shots and hit almost half of them. Good thing for Westbrook and Durant, because OKC really had no business winning this one. I think as a whole, Denver outplayed them.
- KD on Ibaka: “He’s been phenomenal man. 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?”
- The Thunder’s bench was pretty bad, and would’ve been the reason they lost, had Batman and Superman not come out to save the day. Every player on the bench was a minus, while every starter was a plus. Ibaka was a +29 in an overtime game for crying out loud.
- People like to say Westbrook and Durant are Batman and Robin, but I think it’s more like The Avengers. A team of superheroes.
- Denver started the game with Arron Afflalo on Westbrook but once KD got started cooking, switched him there. And then back to Westbrook. And then back to KD. It was clear: The Nuggets had no idea what to do with those two guys.
- Kosta Koufos just completely obliterated Perk in the second quarter. Mainly by just running by him. Perk was slow down the floor multiple times freeing up Koufos to grab offensive rebounds, easy putbacks and early post position. In eight minutes in the second quarter, Koufos had 11 points and eight rebounds. Tell me when that should EVER happen.
- Perk was bad in his first game back. Didn’t put ANYTHING (and offensive rebound) on the stat sheet until almost halftime. Scott Brooks sat him for basically most of the second half, going small, which was the right move. Had Nene been playing, maybe things would’ve been different, but the Thunder just couldn’t afford for Perk to get roasted up and down the court.
- Ivey appears to be part of the rotation. Which seemed like it might be a good thing, but he missed four really good looks.
- It might’ve felt like the Nuggets had 65 offensive rebounds in the first half, but they actually only had seven. And 18 for the game.
- The Birdman scares me.
- Does anybody miss a dunk better than Russell Westbrook?
- Or celebrate a dunk on the way down better than Russell Westbrook?
- I really want to know how those blowup mascots work.
- I have no idea how, but the official box score only had Denver with 18 fast break points. It felt more like 110 of their 118 were fast break points, didn’t it?
- You know what makes OKC’s offense even better? When Ibaka has that jumper going. Offensive diversity is a very good thing.
- I honestly don’t have a good suggestion for KD creating space when defenders are crowded him on the perimeter. The defender rarely gets called for holding, so when KD pushes back a bit to create space, he gets called.
- Here’s how good Westbrook and Durant were: Not only did Serge Ibaka get a triple-double with blocks, but he had 15 rebounds — eight offensive — and 14 big points. His best game ever probably. And yet it’s pretty easy to totally forget.
- Only 14 Thunder turnovers. That’s way underrated.
- Good news! After all of that, OKC plays the Hornets tomorrow night. And then another back-to-back two days after that!
Next up: New Orleans at home Monday.