Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Nuggets

NUGGETS 106

THUNDER 101
5 Number of Thunder starters who had five or more rebounds, led by Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins with six each

6 Steals in the game, five of which came from Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha

9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, one shy of a double-double

10 Lead changes throughout the game, which also featured six ties. Neither team led by double digits

13 Blocked shots by the Thunder, including a career-high four for Russell Westbrook and another four for Serge Ibaka

30 Points for Russell Westbrook on 10-for-20 shooting

32 Points for Kevin Durant, expanding his scoring title lead

49.4 Shooting percentage by the Thunder, including 41.7 percent from three-point land

The Thunder will host the first game of round one of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on either Saturday or Sunday. Opponent is to be determined.
GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
As the final buzzer sounded to end the 66th and final game of the Thunder’s regular season, it was clear that Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team was ready to immediately switch gears into NBA Playoffs mode. A hot start by the Denver Nuggets coupled with a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter clipped the Thunder 106-101 on Wednesday night, leaving the Thunder with a 47-19 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. After the game, Coach Brooks broke down what Denver did well to get control early, but gave his young team credit for the season it put together.

“I thought Denver did a good job of really establishing their pace in that first quarter,” Brooks said. “After that we kind of controlled the style of play that we wanted to do in the last three quarters. All in all it was a tough game, a tough loss, but one of the things that I’ve talked to the team about is that I’m proud of what they’ve done this year.”

The biggest bright spot on the night was clearly the play of All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who shone in multiple different categories throughout the evening. Not only was his 30 points on 50 percent shooting key to keeping the Thunder in the game, it was his hustle and ability to impact the game on multiple levels. Flying around on all ends of the court, Westbrook led the Thunder in rebounds (six), assists (nine), steals (three) and blocks (four). After the game, as usual, he said he was more focused on working together with teammates like Serge Ibaka in the pick-and-pop game.

“I just tried to come out with some energy,” Westbrook said. “We started off slowly and I just tried to pick my teammates up… They started doubling off the pick-and-roll and Serge is able to knock that shot down consistently so my job is to continue to pass it to him.”

In fact, on four different occasions in the third quarter alone, Westbrook used a screen from Ibaka to draw the double team then either kicking the ball out to or dumping it inside to Ibaka. That rhythm and flow to the offense was a good sign heading into the postseason, where the Thunder will need to rely upon as many offensive weapons and sets as possible. For a team who has four key players all 23-years old or younger, the Thunder has accomplished quite a bit and continued its ascension through hard work, diligence and incremental improvement, which All-Star forward Kevin Durant discussed at length after the game.

“Every year we’ve progressed,” Durant said. “We lost tonight, but it doesn’t mean we had a bad year by any means. To reflect on the year, there were ups and downs, that’s what happens in this league, but we had a good year… We can’t worry about what we did during the regular season, that’s out the door. We have to get ready for the Playoffs. I think we have another level that we can get to and a few days of practice are really going to help us out.”

TURNING POINT:
While the early 12-2 first quarter run that gave the Nuggets its biggest lead of the night at nine points was certainly a factor in this one, the true turning point came in the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets turned an 86-80 Thunder lead with 10:50 remaining into a 94-88 Denver lead with 6:09 remaining thanks to an Arron Afflalo three-point jumper, an Andre Miller corner jumper, followed by a Ty Lawson driving layup and two more layups from Al Harrington and Kenneth Faried. While the Thunder did tie the game up once after that, it was never able to regain the lead.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Incredible display of strength by Kendrick Perkins on the boards on two straight possessions to get offensive rebounds, leading to a Serge Ibaka offensive board as he drew a foul… Great anticipation by Russell Westbrook to make a steal, then Thabo Sefolosha makes a perfect no-look pass to Kevin Durant for a transition slam… Sefolosha with another pretty pass, this time on a lob to Perkins for a jam, then Perkins scores on a post-up move deep in the post… Another hustle play from the Thunder as Ibaka cleaned up a miss on the offensive glass, then Durant crosses up Danilo Gallinari for a three-pointer… Perkins sets a tough screen to set up a Westbrook jumper… Perkins saves a layup attempt by blocking a shot… Durant drives and kicks to Westbrook for a three-pointer, then Durant plays tough defense to prevent a drive and gets rewarded by a Westbrook dump-off for a dunk… Durant drives and kicks to Fisher for a three-pointer, then Daequan Cook picks up right where he left off by burying a three-pointer from Durant… Fisher returns the favor and hits Durant for a three-pointer the next time down court, then Cook battles and tips a defensive rebound to Durant… Fisher slides to the rim and hits a floater, then Cook and Lazar Hayward battle to grab a defensive board… Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison both make blocks to force a 24-second shot clock violation, then Collison hustles to tip in the missed shot… Great work by Mohammed to reel in two offensive rebounds and then Westbrook kicks it to Durant for a three-pointer… Great display of toughness by Sefolosha and Ibaka to defend Gallinari well and preventing him from getting an easy bucket… Ibaka comes flying in from nowhere to block a shot, then Westbrook evades a “pull-the-chair” move and scores with ease.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Ibaka sets a good screen up top for Westbrook to knock down a jumper… Perkins swats a shot then cleans up the defensive glass after a nice closeout from Durant… Ibaka hustles and bodies up his man to get a defensive board, then Westbrook nails his patented mid-range pull-up jumper… Westbrook hits Ibaka on a perfect pick-and-pop, then Serge swats one all the way back to mid-court… Westbrook and Ibaka press replay on their last scoring play, then Westbrook swats a Ty Lawson shot… Solid baseline defense from Collison and Ibaka to force a travel, which leads to a Westbrook to Ibaka back-to-the-basket finish… Another Westbrook-to-Ibaka pick-and-pop is followed up by a beautiful one-handed bounce pass from Sefolosha to Durant for a dunk… Fisher hustles and tracks down a defensive board, then Durant slams home a ferocious dunk right in JaVale McGee’s face… Incredible hustle by Fisher to reel in a loose ball on the floor and save it to Durant, then Collison rebounds his own miss and kicks it to Cook for a corner three… Quick hands from Sefolosha, then Cook and Fisher play a two-man game resulting in a Fisher layup… Royal Ivey does a great job of moving his feet to draw a charge, then Ibaka hedges out perfectly before swatting a dunk attempt… Amazing hustle by Westbrook to pick Lawson’s pocket then get out and run to lob an alley-oop to Durant… Westbrook drives and kicks to Durant for a three-pointer that hits nothing but net… Perfect anticipation and awareness by Westbrook to make a steal then slide to the cup in transition for a layup… Really pretty screen-and-roll as Westbrook hits Ibaka for a slam dunk, then Westbrook impacts a shot attempt that Ibaka cleans up with a rebound… Westbrook follows his pass to the rim and cleans up a missed shot to draw two foul shots.



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