Game Recap - Playoffs Game 2 vs Denver Nuggets

Playoffs Series at a Glance
106 89

2 Three-point attempts and makes on the first two Thunder possessions.

5:11 Time it took for James Harden to reach double figures. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds.

6 Number of offensive rebounds by Kendrick Perkins. He finished with 11 total.

6:41 Time elapsed before Nuggets’ first made basket.

7 Number of Thunder players to score in the first quarter. Nine would score altogether, with five reaching double figures.

9:45 Time it took Serge Ibaka to pull down seven rebounds. He finished with a game-high 12.

15 Thunder lead at the half.

26 Thunder’s biggest lead of the night.

30 Number of 3-point shot attempts by the Thunder, the most this season.

AT DENVER: The best-of-seven series shifts to Denver for Games 3 (Saturday) and 4 (Monday), with the Thunder holding a 2-0 lead.

“We just have to go out there and compete. We need to limit their transition points, which is how they get most of their points,” said Thunder guard James Harden, who scored 18 points on 5-for-9 shooting in Game 2. “We also need to take great shots and get back on defense.”


GAME STORY

Thunder players and coaches talked about the importance of getting off to a good start against Denver in Game 2 Wednesday night.

They were not kidding.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant each drilled 3-pointers on the Thunder's first two possessions, setting a pace that would see the Thunder score 31 points in the first quarter en route to a 106-89 victory. But this night wasn't about offense. What happened after those two 3-pointers set the tone for the game and ultimately cleared the path for the Thunder to take a 2-0 lead as this best-of-seven series shifts to Denver for Games 3 (Saturday) and 4 (Monday).

The Nuggets missed their first two shots and turned the ball over on their first three possessions. Trailing 6-0 and the sold-out Oklahoma City Arena crowd at a fever pitch, Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler drove toward the basket for a slam dunk. He was met in mid-air by Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who was called for a flagrant foul on the play. Wilson made both free throws, but the message was clear: this night would not be like Game 1; there would be no easy baskets.

"That's one of things we like. He brings toughness," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said of Perkins. "He brings a physical attitude every time, that's who he is. He does it in practice, he does it in shoot-arounds, he does it in games. I'm sure when he takes his kids to school he has an attitude."

Tone set, the Thunder went to work. Seven players scored in the opening quarter as the Thunder jumped out to a 31-15 lead. Oklahoma City was only getting warmed up. The Thunder would push its lead to 43-17 in the second quarter before heading in at halftime up, 59-44.

The lead stayed 15 through the first three quarters with no real threat coming from the Nuggets until early in the fourth quarter. Denver cut the lead to 86-76 with 8:33 remaining in the game. Brooks immediately called time-out and reminded his team to finish strong. The Thunder responded with a 14-5 run over the next 4:26 to push the lead back to 19 and send the sellout crowd of 18,203 into a deafening roar.

"Denver is a very aggressive team. As we all know, they're a talented team," Brooks said. "They play hard, they play together. Coach (George) Karl does a good job but all we've done really is just protect our home court. Now it's time to go back, watch the film, find ways that we can improve, find ways that we can get better next game. We know going into their court it's not going to be easy but we're looking forward to the challenge."

GAME IN REVIEW

THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN: Reserve guard Daequan Cook drilled a 3-point jumper to put the Thunder up, 100-81, and cap a 14-5 run midway through the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets, down 81-66 after three periods, had pulled within 86-76 on a layup by guard Raymond Felton. Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks called timeout and reminded his team that this game was not over. Kevin Durant scored six points in the run and Russell Westbrook five, setting the stage for Cook in the corner, who buried the 3-pointer and the Nuggets’ hopes for a comeback with 4:07 to play.

TURNING POINT: It’s hard to call the first three possessions the turning point, but we will. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant each swished 3-pointers to put the Thunder up 6-0 and send the sellout crowd of 18,203 into a deafening roard.

But the tone of the game changed on the Nuggets’ ensuing possession, when Kendrick Perkins was called for a flagrant foul on Denver forward Wilson Chandler. A message was sent: Tonight will be not like Game 1. There will be no easy baskets.

The Thunder led 31-15 after the first quarter and pushed it to 43-17 in the second quarter.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW: Kendrick Perkins setting a screen on Danilo Gallinari to free Kevin Durant, who continues his dribble and finds Russell Westbrook on the wing for a 3-pointer, the game’s first points. … Thabo Sefolosha fighting for a rebound with Nene, forcing a jump ball. … Perkins setting a screen for Durant, who finds Westbrook, who immediately gets the ball back to Perkins for two points inside. … Steal by Eric Maynor following a Thunder turnover. Maynor spots Collison at the top of the key and Collison drains an 18-foot jumper for 38-15 lead. … Russell Westbrook spinning past two defenders on the wing, driving and spinning around Nene for a scoop-shot basket. … Russell Westbrook with the block, Nick Collison gains possession, stays in bounds and gets the ball to KD, who feeds to Sefolosha for a 12-foot jumper from the wing. … Durant laces a bounce pass through the lane to a breaking Nick Collison for a uncontested two-hand slam and an 86-72 Thunder lead.

STATS WORTH REPEATING: The Thunder won the rebound battle, 54-31. Of those 54, 17 were on the offensive end. Serge Ibaka (12) and Kendrick Perkins (11) led the way. … The Thunder got 22 points and 20 rebounds from its power-forward tandem of Serge Ibaka (12, 12) and Nick Collison (10, 8).

LAST WORD I: “I thought it was a very good win for us. We did what we have to do in the playoffs — protect our own court — and we did that both games. I thought tonight’s start was as good as we can possibly play on both ends of the floor.” – Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks.

LAST WORD II: “We did not let Denver shoot like they did in Game 1. We forced them to take some tough shots. Overall, I think we did a good job of closing the paint. For instance, we put Nene on the free-throw line rather than giving him dunks like we did in game one. Also, I think we did a good job of closing in on the 3-point line. Overall, our energy in the first half was great and that is what we will need for the rest of the series.” – Thunder forward Kevin Durant

-- Ron Matthews, THUNDER.NBA.COM