9 Assists for Russell Westbrook, in addition to eight rebounds
10 Steals by the Thunder on the night
18 Points for Kevin Martin on 6-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-6 shooting from three
31 Points for the Thunder off 23 turnovers by the Nuggets
36 Points for Russell Westbrook, including 15-for-17 from the free throw line
37 Points for Kevin Durant, including 20-for-21 from the free throw line
40-for-48 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night, season highs
Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes, from different sources, but the Thunder takes the challenges in stride and does its best to overcome each one.
Sunday night in Denver against the Nuggets, the Thunder saw itself fall behind by 11 points late in the fourth quarter, but used a 13-2 burst to rally back and send the game into overtime. Ultimately Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club fell short 121-118, but the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook-led club fought for all 53 minutes, pushing the Nuggets to the brink and nearly coming up with a win on the road. The Nuggets made a few extra plays in overtime, and Durant’s three-pointer came up just short at the buzzer.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win and took it into overtime, but we just couldn’t finish,” Durant said.
The Nuggets hit the Thunder hard on the glass, out-rebounding the Thunder and snagging 20 offensive rebounds. In addition, the Nuggets had nine different players who scored eight points or more and Denver got a huge effort from its bench. Corey Brewer led the way with 26 points while Wilson Chandler had 12 and Andre Miller added 11. It was Brewer’s activity and marksmanship from deep made a difference in the game.
“He made threes,” Brooks said. “It seemed like any time we made a minor mistake he was around the basketball to hit a three… He’s a good player, he’s had some big games.”
Despite trailing by nearly a dozen, the Thunder made sure this game was a back and forth affair, as the game featured 12 lead changes and 20 ties. With its typical never-say-die mentality, the Thunder clawed back from its deficit and gave the Nuggets all it could handle with its final scoring barrage that ended regulation. Spearheaded by the tenacity of Westbrook, who finished with 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, the Thunder hit three consecutive threes, including Westbrook’s bomb from deep that tied the game with 23 seconds left in regulation.
“He willed us back to tie the game up,” Durant said. “He hit a big shot. He was getting to the rim, getting fouls called on him, putting pressure on the defense. He played well for us. He played his heart out.”
By putting pressure on the opposing ball-handler, diving into the lane to track down rebounds and getting the Thunder’s offense in order, Westbrook is the head of Brooks’ squad’s attack. For all 48 minutes and six seconds that he played on the night, Westbrook helped teammates find shots, got himself and others opportunities and tried to set the tone for his team all night.
“He plays, he competes, he does everything that we ask,” Brooks said. “He improves every year. He plays defense at a high level. He’s a two-way player and I don’t know if there’s a better one in the league that can do both of them.”
The Thunder trailed by 11 with 3:04 remaining in the game, but went on a 13-2 run to close out regulation and force overtime. It was 107-96 Nuggets when Russell Westbrook made a driving layup, Serge Ibaka came up with a block, then Westbrook knocked down two free throws. Kevin Durant made a three-pointer on the next series, Kendrick Perkins made a block, then Kevin Martin hit a three-pointer to bring the game to within one point. After two Nuggets free throws Russell Westbrook hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 22.9 seconds remaining.
Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Durant jumps the passing lane to stop a Nuggets fast break, turning it into a Thunder fast break. Incredible bounce pass out of a double team by Westbrook to Ibaka for a jumper. Collison fights off three Nuggets for an offensive rebound then kicks it out to Martin for a jumper. Quick hands by Jackson to slap the ball away, starting a Thunder fast break. Westbrook hustles back in transition defense and slaps the ball away, preventing a Nuggets fast break.
Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Wonderful up and under move by Ibaka in the lane to beat his man one-on-one for a bucket. Nice hustle by Sefolosha on a missed free throw to track down the offensive rebound then patience to hit Durant for a three. Good awareness by Perkins to flash into the lane to receive a pass from Durant for a quick hook shot. Patience in the lane by Westbrook to pick out a cutting Sefolosha for a layup. Great hustle by Martin to slap the ball away and make a steal in transition defense.
“We just picked it up, we made plays down the stretch. Everybody did, we just locked in defensively at the end and gave ourselves a chance to win. Unfortunately we came up on the losing end.” – Kevin Durant