Game Recap - Playoffs Game 3 at Denver Nuggets

Playoffs Series at a Glance
97 94

1 The Thunder needs one more win to secure its first NBA Playoffs series win.

2 Number of fouls Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed picked up in the first quarter.

4 Number of Thunder players with double-figure scoring totals at halftime – Kevin Durant (13), Serge Ibaka (12), Russell Westbrook (10) and James Harden (10).

10 Consecutive free throws made by Serge Ibaka.

15 Points the Thunder scored in the third quarter.

22 Combined number of points scored by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter.

30 Points the Thunder scored in the second quarter. 92 Combined number of free throws attempted by Thunder and Nuggets.

140 Rebounds the Thunder has grabbed in three games. The Nuggets have 108.

AT DENVER: Game 4 will be played Monday night in Denver. The Thunder will be looking to close out the series and win its first NBA Playoffs series in its three-year history.


GAME STORY

IN DENVER -- It was as physical as it was intense, but the bottom line is this: The Thunder is one victory away from earning its first NBA Playoffs series win in its three-year history.

Serge Ibaka matched his career-high with 22 points, grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and blocked four shots as the Thunder defeated the Denver Nuggets, 97-94, to earn its first playoff road win. The victory gave the Thunder a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 set for Monday night.

"That was a very physical basketball game. That is what you expect from the playoffs," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said.

The two teams shot a combined 88 free throws and were whistled for 56 personal fouls, totals that underscored the physical style of play.

The Thunder survived a scoring drought late in the third quarter when it was outscored 12-3 over the final 4:17 of the period. The Nuggets led 73-71 going into the final 12 minutes and had their fans revved up.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant took over in the fourth quarter, combining for 22 of the Thunder's 26 points. Westbrook scored 13 of his 23 points in the period and Durant had nine of his game-high 26.

The Thunder tied the game at 76-all on a 3-pointer by Durant and took a lead it would not surrender on a three-point play by Westbrook with 8:02 remaining. The Thunder led 94-84 with 49.3 seconds remaining as the Nuggets fans started to exit.

But JR Smith hit two 3-pointers, the first with 23.3 seconds to play to pull the Nuggets to within 95-91, the second in front of the Thunder bench with 14.6 remaining to make it a one-point game.

"I thought we made some plays down the stretch to get that lead and some plays down the stretch to almost give up that lead," Brooks said. "They made big shots. You can say that we didn't execute defensively, but every shot they made a hand was in their face. JR made some big plays."

Ibaka got behind the Nuggets defense for a two-handed slam with 10.5 seconds remaining to push the lead back to three. Following a time out, the Nuggets went back to Smith but he was smothered by James Harden. His 29-foot shot was short, the buzzer sounded and the Thunder started to celebrate its win.

"It was a tough, hard-fought win for us, but that's what it takes this time of year," Durant said.hat 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: The final buzzer sounded. It appeared the game was over when Kevin Durant hit two free throws with 49.3 seconds remaining to put the Thunder up, 94-84. It certainly seemed over when Serge Ibaka got behind the Nuggets’ defense for an uncontested slam dunk with 10.5 seconds to play.

But Saturday was a day of comebacks in the NBA, and the Nuggets did their part to continue the trend. JR Smith hit two big 3-point shots in the final 23.3 seconds, the last one cutting the Thunder lead to 95-94. Following Ibaka’s dunk, the Nuggets had one last chance. They turned to Smith again, but he was smothered by James Harden and his 29-foot shot was short as the buzzer sounded.

TURNING POINT:The Thunder survived a third quarter in which it was outscored 12-3 over the final 4:17 of the period. Denver led 73-71 going into the final 12 minutes. … With 8:02 to play and the game tied at 76-76, Russell Westbrook converted a 3-point play to give the Thunder a lead it would not relinquish.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW: Russell Westbrook racing down court to knock the ball out of Wilson Chandler’s hands and break up a Nuggets fast break. … Nick Collison grabbing an offensive rebound of own miss and going right back up and around the Nuggets’ Chris Andersen. … Eric Maynor hitting Kevin Durant in full stride with a half-court pass that Durant turns in to two points. … Serge Ibaka battling Nuggets center Nene throughout the second quarter, creating several loose balls and missed shots. … Russell Westbrook’s aggressive offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.

STATS WORTH REPEATING: Serge Ibaka had 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. At halftime! He finished with a career-high-tying 22 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. … The Thunder won the rebound battle for the third consecutive game in the series, 49-43.

LAST WORD: “It’s all about wins in the playoffs. … Especially playing against a great team like this. To be on their home floor speaks a lot about our team, how tough we are, our resilience. “ – Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

THE LIGHTER SIDE:Following the first quarter, the Nuggets’ mascot, Rocky, made his way to the top of the upper level to confront a pair of Thunder fans and tear up their “Go Thunder” sign.

-- Ron Matthews, THUNDER.NBA.COM