Game Recap - Playoffs Game 4 at Denver Nuggets

Playoffs Series at a Glance
101 104

2 Blocks by Serge Ibaka in the first 3:41 of the game. … He added three more in first 5:25 of third quarter.

5 Points by Eric Maynor during a a 2:42 stretch in the second quarter.

6 Players with double-digit scoring totals for the Nuggets.

12 Consecutive free throws made by Serge Ibaka over Games 3 and 4.

30 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka in past two games. He has 47 in the series.

65 Points scored by the Thunder (32) and Nuggets (33) in the fourth quarter.

66.7 Thunder’s free throw percentage (12-for-18) in the first half. For the game, the Thunder shot 77.4 percent (24-for-31).

BACK IN OKC: Game 5 of the best-of-seven series will be played Wednesday in the Oklahoma City Arena. Game time is 8:30 p.m. Central.


GAME STORY

IN DENVER -- For two days, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks talked about the difficulty to win games in the playoffs, particularly on the road and especially the close-out game in a series.

Game 4 of the Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets series underscored his point Monday night.

The Nuggets, desperate to extend their season and determined not to let the Thunder celebrate on its home court, survived a furious fourth-quarter Thunder rally to get their first victory, 104-101, in this best-of-seven first-round series. Game 5 will be played at 8:30 p.m. Central Wednesday in the Oklahoma City Arena.

"I thought that was a great NBA playoff basketball game. We knew it would be hard," Brooks said minutes after the game.

"I asked my guys to come in and play hard and they did. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game and did not make enough plays down the stretch and we did not make plays. ... Give them credit; they stepped up and made some shots."

This was a game that was close from start to finish. Tied at halftime, 45-45, both teams came out firing in the third quarter. Russell Westbrook scored 12 of his 30 points in the third quarter, hitting 5 of 7 shots and, often times, the floor with his high-speed slashes to the basket. There would be three ties and seven lead changes in the period, setting the stage for the final 12 minutes with the Nuggets leading, 71-69, and their season on the line.

Denver entered the fourth quarter with hot hands in Danilo Gallinari and JR Smith, who combined scored 17 of the Nuggets' 26 third-quarter points. It was Smith who hit a 3-pointer in front of the Thunder bench with 35.4 seconds to play that gave Denver a lead it ultimately would not surrender.

The Nuggets pushed the margin to 10 points with 2:44 remaining in the game, only to watch the Thunder strike back behind Westbrook and Durant. One minute, 53 seconds later, the Thunder was within two, 98-96, on a 3-pointer by Durant. He would strike again with 4.1 seconds to play, his 3 pulling the Thunder to within 103-101.

But the Nuggets made their free throws in the fourth quarter, something they have struggled with throughout the series. Denver made 16 of 20 attempts in the fourth quarter -- and 31 of 44 for the game. Ty Lawson, who scored a career playoff-high 27 points, was 9-for-9 from the line.

"I knew going in to this series, that every game was going to be tough. We were very happy to go into this game with a 3-0 lead. Trust me when I say this, we didn't go into this series thinking we were going to sweep this team. That is a very good basketball team."

GAME IN REVIEW

THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN: A 3-point shot attempt by Russell Westbrook banked off the glass and rim and into Nuggets hands as the final horn sounded.

Nuggets 104, Thunder 101.

The Nuggets used an 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter to turn a 89-87 lead into a 97-87. But the Thunder responded like it always does: with energy, passion and big shots. The Thunder closed the lead to 100-98, but couldn’t get over the hump.

TURNING POINT:In second quarter, the Thunder led 45-42 and had possession of the ball with 28.9 seconds remaining in the half. Russell Westbrook missed a 3-pointer that would have silenced the crowd and left time on the game clock for one more Thunder possession. The Nuggets grabbed the rebound, converted two of three free throws at the other end – the last on a technical foul called on Kendrick Perkins – and the game remained tied at half. … In the final minute of the third quarter, the Thunder commits two turnovers. The first leads to a 3-pointer by JR Smith that gives the Nuggets a 71-69 lead; the second doesn’t lead to any points, but it whips the Pepsi Center crowd into a roar.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW:Serge Ibaka challenges a dunk attempt by Danilo Gallinari. The missed shot leads to a fast break and Russell Westbrook basket. … Nick Collison deflects an inbounds pass attempt and tips the ball to James Harden. Harden finds a sprinting Kevin Durant, who makes the basket and draws a blocking foul on Nene. … Collison breaks up a dunk by Chris Andersen with a hard foul before the Nuggets’ center can even rise to the basket. … Daequan Cook pokes the ball away from the Nuggets Wilson Chandler. The ball ends up in Eric Maynor’s hands and results in two points. … Westbrook soars high above everybody for an offensive rebound. The extra possession results in a 16-foot Westbrook jumper, giving the Thunder a 32-31 lead. … On back-to-back possessions, Ibaka alters the shots of Nuggets guard JR Smith. … Harden, anticipating a missed free throw by Nene, beats Nuggets guard Ty Lawson for position and comes down with the rebound. … Durant sprinting back on defense and poking the ball out of the hands of Arron Afflalo. Not done, Durant saved the ball while falling out of bounds. … Durant gets the credit for a 3, but the ball started with Westbrook, went to Ibaka, then Harden and finally Durant.

OH, SO CLOSE!: It didn’t count, but Thunder guard Eric Maynor swished a shot from three-quarters court as the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter. Replays showed his shot was released an instant after the red light around the backboard came on. It would have made the score 26-23, Nuggets.

STATS WORTH REPEATING: The Nuggets shot 44 free throws and converted 31. Their 70.5 percentage total marked only the second time in four games they had shot 70 percent or better. … Russell Westbrook scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half. … Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 61 points in Game 4. Combined, they are averaging 56.5 points a game in the series.

LAST WORD: “I thought that was a great NBA playoff basketball game. We knew it would be hard. I give Denver a lot of credit, we all do.” – Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks.

THE LIGHTER SIDE: In the second quarter, with Kevin Durant shooting two free throws, the scoreboard encouraged fans to stand up. Nobody did. Durant made both and gave the Thunder a 36-34 lead.

-- Ron Matthews, THUNDER.NBA.COM