Thunder Has to Slow Nene, Denver Has to Control Durant and Westbrook

Denver center Nene scored 22 points against the Thunder Sunday night, almost as many as he had scored in the Nuggets two previous games against Oklahoma City.

Kevin Durant (41) and Russell Westbrook (31) ripped the Nuggets defense for 72 points, 22.5 points more than they averaged in the two previous games.

So the missions are clear. The Thunder needs to slow down Nene and the Nuggets need to do the same to Durant and Westbrook.

“Nene had a terrific game against us,” admitted Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “He’s a low post scorer, he can make his mid-range shot, he’s an aggressive player and he runs the floor well.”

The Thunder adjustments will include what the entire team can do better, not just Nene’s direct defender, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.

“We look at it as our team needs to do a better job of stopping his easy catches,” Brooks said. “He was getting in transition and had three or four buckets that way. That’s not on Perk that’s on our team’s defensive transition scheme. But we just have to push him off his spot. He’s a great scorer around the rim and we have to push him off those spots where he’s comfortable.”

Perkins told reporters he was a little frustrated by his performance against the big Brazilian.

“Yeah I probably was, I didn’t have one of my better games,” he said. “And I was frustrated because were weren’t getting stops when we needed to. But I don’t look at it as a Nene and a Perk thing it’s more of a Denver and Oklahoma City thing, so if he did get the best of me (Sunday night) and they lost then ups to them.”

The Thunder adjustments against Nene may be a lot easier to make than what Denver will need to do, or be able to do, to slow down Durant and Westbrook.

“We’ll sit down and talk about what we can do, we have three or four guys we can throw at him (Durant), maybe five if we get (Arron) Afflalo back,” Nuggets Head Coach George Karl told reporters. “We don’t have as bodies that we can throw at Westbrook, so our options are more limited with him.”

Reports from the Nuggets camp today indicate Afflalo will not be back for Wednesday’s game, “zero chance,” he told reporters after Denver’s Monday practice. Afflalo has been out with a strained hamstring and is one of the Nuggets best defenders.

Whatever the Nuggets do it won’t be anything Durant and Westbrook haven’t already seen at some point this season.

“They’re good players for a reason,” Brooks said. “All year long they’ve made great plays for themselves and for their teammates and that’s not gonna change. If they get those same shots (Wednesday night) that they got (Sunday night) I’m confident they’re gonna make those shots. But it wasn’t just them. Eric (Maynor) stepped up, he was 5-for-7 from the field. But like I told the guys, it’s not about you just scoring points to help the team win, it’s about Serge (Ibaka) blocking four shots and those were four possible layups or dunks. James (Harden) had four assists, two rebounds and two blocks. So you can’t judge your game just on how many points you score. Everybody stepped up that’s what makes us a good team.”

Game 2 in the Thunder-Nuggets playoff series is set for Wednesday evening. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena. You can watch all the action on Fox Sports Oklahoma or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.