You can file that one under “great game,” but only for the reason that it was super close and went to overtime. Because really, it was a sloppy mess of a game that was an absolute foul fest. The two teams combined for 48 turnovers tonight and 61 total fouls called. That’s 1.2 a minute. That’s a lot.
Three of those 61 are pretty big talking points for the Thunder though. After getting a good number of favorable calls for most of the night — Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant took 38 free throws combined — the whistle turned on the Thunder in the extra frame with three illegal screen calls going against Oklahoma City.
The first was against Kendrick Perkins with 2:56 left. Then one against Thabo Sefolosha with 58 seconds left. And then the last one — which was the biggest — against Nick Collison with six seconds left and OKC down one. Were they correct calls, by the book? Probably. But the question is, in those situations, those are calls you rarely see. And they were absolutely crushing to the Thunder and directly impacted the outcome of the game.
It’s a shame too, because this was all set to be the night Russell Westbrook burned the Pepsi Center to the ground. With free queso on the line, Westbrook pulled a Russell and decided to goaltend Rocky the mascot’s backwards halfcourt heave in the fourth quarter. And the crowd booed. Then, Westbrook did it again. And they booed.
Then, Westbrook buried a game-tying 3 with 22 seconds. Because he’s Russell Westbrook, and he don’t care. And he feeds on your hate.
It was the cap on a pretty furious finish to regulation by the Thunder, coming back from nine down with under three minutes left. OKC ramped up the intensity and effort, locked in defensively and really focused on execution and finishing. Which was a major problem the previous 45 minutes.
To me, it looked like the Thunder were trying to really coast through most of the game, specifically on the defensive end and glass. In the first half, Denver had 24 total rebounds — 11 defensive and 13 offensive. Serge Ibaka was entirely absent on the boards, Perk didn’t contribute much and Durant didn’t do the thing where he comes in and bails them out. Kenneth Faried was simply more active.
It was a pretty embarrassing game for the Thunder’s big men. Collison, Perk and Ibaka combined for 15 total rebounds in 93 combined minutes. That stinks. As a team, the Thunder got outrebounded 50-39. That also stinks. The Nuggets got far too many easy buckets at the rim and virtually every scramble or loose ball seemed to go Denver’s way.
Outside of the free throw line and the final three minutes of regulation, Denver beat up on the Thunder tonight. Mostly because of self-inflicted stupidity and laziness, but still, the reasons you lose are just window dressing to the pertinent fact — you lost.
This game was definitely circled as a question mark for the six-game road trip, but with it in their grasp and the circumstances under which it was lost, it’s really unfortunate for this one to get away. The Thunder don’t often lose games like this, especially in that manner. With the way it went down, it feels like one that could linger a little longer than usual.
- After going 21-21 from the line last game in Dallas, Durant started tonight 18-18. But his first miss in 39 attempts came at a critical time in overtime. He finished 20-21, which is still pretty darn impressive. It helped him follow up his 52 points on Friday with 37 tonight. He hit just 7-20 from the floor though and struggled early, hitting just 1-7 in the first half.
- Westbrook as a man possessed tonight. He appeared to severely roll his ankle right before halftime — a half in which he put up 19 points — but naturally, returned to play almost the entire second half. He finished with 36 points, eight rebounds and nine assists… and two blocks.
- Westbrook finished with seven turnovers, but five came in the first half.
- Kevin Martin played a pretty excellent game. He had 18 points on 6-10 shooting and was smartly involved at different times late. He was assertive and aggressive and fit in nicely to the flow of OKC’s offense.
- Nothing but disappointment in the way Reggie Jackson played tonight. In six minutes he really accomplished nothing.
- Jackson’s top offensive move is just shouting directions all over the place and trying to direct traffic. It looks like he’s doing something, but is he really?
- What’s funny about the illegal screens is that the one Ibaka set on KD’s final 3 attempt was the illegal-est of all. And yet it went uncalled. Which is where the frustration stems from. It’s such an inconsistently called play, so unless it’s just unbelievably egregious, eat the whistle in those massive crunchtime moments.
- It’s not hard to see why players take shots at Kenneth Faried. He’s relentless and energetic, but can really be a pest. That’s his game, to get under your skin. And he succeeded tonight.
- For as calculated and technical a player Martin is, you’d think he wouldn’t travel every single time he takes a jab step and puts the ball on the floor.
- It appeared Hasheem Thabeet was about to get a second consecutive DNP-CD, but after Perk got into foul trouble, he got some late second half burn.
- Quietly, KD almost messed around and got a triple-double. He had eight assists and seven rebounds to go with his 37.
- The way the Nuggets win just isn’t sustainable against the Thunder. With OKC, you know what you’re going to mostly get. Durant and Westbrook will carry the bulk, with other pieces picking up remaining slack behind that. The Nuggets are forced to rely on a nightly Step-Up Game from someone. Tonight, they got it from Corey Brewer. If they don’t get that unexpected production against OKC, they’re in trouble. That’s been the storyline between these two teams the past three years.
- Grant Long Line of the Night: “Perk’s offense tonight has been very impressive.”
Next up: At the Clippers on Tuesday.