Game Recap - Playoffs Game 5 vs Denver Nuggets

Playoffs Series at a Glance
100 97

1 Playoff series won by the Thunder in its three-year history.

4 Thunder players to finish with double-digit scoring totals

5 Points by Eric Maynor in the last 2 minutes, 34 seconds of the first quarter.

9 Blocks by Serge Ibaka, a career high.

14 Points scored by Kevin Durant over the final 3:23.

16 Points scored by Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter.

17 Ties in the game

19 Lead changes in the game

23 Point differential between the Thunder (511) and Nuggets (488) in the five-game series.

41 Points scored by Kevin Durant, matching the playoff career-high total he scored in Game 1.

51 Rebounds by the Thunder (16 offensive, 35 defensive).

81 Free-throw percentage shot by both teams.

STAY TUNED: The Thunder advanced to Round 2 of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs, and will play the winner of the San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies series.  

The Spurs won Game 5 on Wednesday night, 110-103 in overtime, and now trail the best-of-seven series 3-2. Game 6 is set for Friday in Memphis.


GAME STORY

Kevin Durant admitted he was getting frustrated. The Thunder, up 3-1 in its best-of-seven series with Denver and playing at home, was down nine with just over four minutes to play in Game 5 Wednesday night, and a return trip to Denver for Game 6 was something Durant just didn't want to do.

"They couldn't miss a shot and we couldn't make any. I thought the odds of winning this game were pretty tough," he admitted. "One thing that went through my mind was, I don't want to go back to Denver. It's cold, it was raining, the fans said some not-so-nice words to us."

But Serge Ibaka made two huge defensive plays in a 12-second stretch to keep the Thunder within striking distance, setting the stage for Durant to do what his teammates told him to do: Take over.

Durant drained an off-balance 3-point shot with 3:23 play and with that shot, had the confidence to carry the Thunder to a 100-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets. He scored 14 of the Thunder's last 18 points to secure the victory, wrap up the best-of-seven series, 3-1, and advance to the second round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs for the first time in the team's three-year history.

"All Nate Robinson and Royal Ivey were saying was, 'Go take the game over. It’s your time,' '' Durant said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me in the right spots so I could make some shots.. ... Russell looked at me and said, 'This is what you do.' ''

But this night -- and victory-- wasn't about one guy and a superstar performance. It underscored what a team can accomplish when it is fighting for each other:

  • Ibaka had nine blocks; if any of his last three blocks result in a Nuggets basket, the Thunder likely is headed back to Denver on Thursday;
  • James Harden, who played stellar defense throughout the game, had a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 91-91 with 1:50 to play;
  • Russell Westbrook hits a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to stop a Nuggets run;
  • Kendrick Perkins added 11 points, nine rebounds and helped limit Nuggets center Nene to just two points after the first quarter;
  • Nick Collison keeps several Thunder possessions alive with multiple tips and three offensive rebounds;
  • Thabo Sefolosha hits timely baskets, saves one possession by not crossing mid-court on a jump ball and comes up with a steal in the middle of a Thunder rally;
  • Eric Maynor scores five points in the final 2:34 of the first quarter to keep the Thunder close;
  • Nazr Mohammed has a timely block, steal and basket during a 4:50 stretch.


"There's so many guy that made big plays for us," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. " Serge (Ibaka) had all those blocks. Those were all layups or dunks that he saved. And his rebounding was great. Perk (Kendrick Perkins) did an incredible job on Nene. Nene is one of the best centers in the game. He’s right there at the All-Star level. Perk battled and fought him every game and that’s not an easy thing to do so give him a lot of credit. James hit a big shot also to tie it up. We just kept running and running. A lot of guys stepped up. Obviously, Kevin did as well. He made big shots."

The biggest, and there were a lot, came with 1:05 to play and the Thunder down 95-93. Following a time out, the ball went to Durant, who drove hard to the basket, pulled up, drew a foul and released a shot while falling to his backside over both Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Durant made the free throw and the Thunder led 96-95.

The Nuggets would bounce back on two free throws by Raymond Felton, but their one-point lead was short lived. Durant followed with two more free throws with 46.1 to play and Ibaka would make what Durant called the play of the night, blocking the dunk attempt by Nene so that the ball spins off the rim and into the hands of Harden with 15.4 seconds remaining.

"Our crowd really wanted the game for us," Durant said. "Down (nine) three minutes to go. They pulled us through, man. Showed us how much we are blessed to be a part of this great city. They won the series for us. But this is only the first step. We must keep moving forward, working hard and go from there."

GAME IN REVIEW

THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN: Sorry if this sounds familiar, but it was over when the final buzzer sounded.

  It would be easy to point to Kevin Durant’s 19-foot pull-up jumper over Nene and say that secured the win. It did, after all, give the Thunder a 100-97 lead, a score that would stand for the next 12 exhilarating seconds.

  But that would take away from two stellar defensive efforts. The first was by Durant, who blocked the 3-point shot attempt by Nuggets sharp-shooter JR Smith with nine seconds remaining.  The Nuggets called time out for one last play. They got the ball in the hands of Arron Afflalo, who finished with a team-high 15 points. But he was trapped in front of the Thunder bench by Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha. Afflalo got free, but his shot bounced off the rim and the buzzer sounded, capping an 18-6 run over the final 4:16 and sending the Thunder and 18,203 in the OKC Arena into a celebration.

TURNING POINT: Serge Ibaka checked into the game with 4:16 remaining and the Thunder down, 91-82. Ibaka had one point , but his defensive presence changed the tone, intensity and, ultimately, the game.  Ibaka blocked Kenyon Martin with 3:41 to play and, 12 seconds later, rejected Nene. If either one of those shots falls, the Thunder is trailing by double digits. Instead, the Thunder is within striking  distance. … Ty Lawson misses two free throws with 2:18 to play, and James Harden secures the rebound. Durant would miss at the other end, but Ibaka battles hard with Martin for the rebound and, in a ruling upheld by instant replay, the Thunder maintains possession. With the Nuggets defense locked on Durant, Harden is left alone in the corner and swishes a 3-pointer to tie the game at 91-91. “When Harden made the 3 to tie it, it took away our confidence to double (Durant),” Nuggets Coach George Karl said. … When Eric Maynor checked into the game with 2:34 to play in the first quarter. The Thunder, down 24-15, closes the quarter on a 10-4 run that includes a 3 by Maynor at the buzzer. “He understands his role very well. … He really embraces that role. He takes advantage of the six to seven minutes a half he gets,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said of Maynor before the game.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW: Nice touch pass from Kendrick Perkins at the top of the key to Kevin Durant for an easy dunk. … Durant, using a screen from Perkins, goes baseline to get past, and then under, Nuggets center Nene for a reverse layin. … Durant hustling back on a Nuggets fast break to reject the shot of guard Arron Afflalo. … Back-to-back defensive plays by Harden and Maynor that forced turnovers when the Nuggets were up nine (24-15) and six (24-18). … Collison drawing a chage when Al Harrington had a clear path to the basket and the Nuggets up 36-35. … Harden altering the shot by Ty Lawson on a deep drive to the basket and the Nuggets on an 8-4 run. … Harden draws a charge on Arron Afflalo, who had scored on back-to-back Nuggets possessions. … Thabo Sefolosha breaking up a pass and gathering the loose ball before falling out of bounds.  … Sefolosha gathering the ball after a jump ball without crossing midcourt, finding Westbrook who drains a long 3. …

STATS WORTH REPEATING: 18-6. That was the run the Thunder went on over the final 4 minutes, 16 seconds of the game. Durant scored 14 of his 41 points (matching his career playoff high) in that stretch, though his first basket in that run came at the 3:23 mark. … 9. No, make that 9! Ibaka had nine blocks, a career high, the last three in the final 3:41 of the game.

LAST WORD: “Our crowd really won the game for us. They really pulled us through when we were down nine points in those final minutes. Shows how much we are blessed to be a part of this great city. This is only the first stop, so we must keep moving and working then go from there.” – Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

-- Ron Matthews, THUNDER.NBA.COM