Nuggets Outlast Thunder in Marathon OT Game – OKC 125, DEN 126 (OT)

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Thunder fans poured into Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday night anticipating a playoff dogfight. What they got was a marathon of a game between division rivals.

The Thunder and Denver Nuggets did battle for 2 hours and 36 minutes of real time on Friday in Oklahoma City, and needed an overtime period to decide the final result. Despite a fourth quarter and overtime filled with relentless energy and effort, and a team-record 20 made three-pointers, the Thunder fell short when it came to closing time, and lost its third game in four tries, 126-125.

“Anytime you play against a team like Denver it’s always going to be that type of game,” said forward Carmelo Anthony, who scored 23 points on 5-of-10 three-point shooting. “An up-tempo game, a fast-paced game. They’re just a team who keeps going and keeps going.”

Neither team excelled at getting stops in the game, but both team took turns playing lights out offense. The Thunder started the game on a 9-0 burst, but without truly taking control. Suddenly it was 18 all, then 28-21 Thunder late in the opening period, but that lead slipped away too heading into the second quarter. It was clear, the Thunder had missed its first two chances to deliver stunning blows to a team hungry to scrape its way into the playoffs.

The game stayed securely in Denver’s hands for the following two quarters, and in fact the Nuggets built a 15-point lead late in the third period. It wasn’t looking good for Oklahoma City, but Paul George led a bench unit 10-0 scoring burst to start the fourth quarter, then Russell Westbrook upped the ante by generating 5 quick points for Jerami Grant on a layup and a three-pointer to help the Thunder retake the lead before setting up Alex Abrines for a three-pointer.

“The pace was high, and we got stops, so that was big,” Westbrook noted.

“It was just the energy. We played with more of a sense of urgency,” Grant added. “We gotta just put a full 48 together.”

In fact, the Thunder led by as many as 6 with 2:22 to go, but in the closing minutes of regulation a combination of missed free throws and errant layups on attacks to the paint resulted in a bunch of empty possessions, which allowed Denver to sneak back into it with just seconds remaining.

“We just have to finish them,” Westbrook said. “We did a good job of locking in when we needed to get stops. We just need to put the ball in the hole.”

With the game tied at 110, Steven Adams was fouled and hit the first free throw but missed the second. George anticipated the flight of the miss perfectly and soared in for an offensive rebound. Westbrook re-set, attacked going left and threw home a monstrous one-handed dunk to make it 113-110 with 25.4 seconds left.

Paul Millsap (36 points) scored on a quick layup, George made just one free throw and then Denver’s Will Barton tied the game on a spinning layup. Westbrook had a chance for the win at the buzzer, but his three-pointer hit iron and fell off to the right.

Donovan played a variety of different cards in this one. He went with Jerami Grant over Carmelo Anthony down the stretch in regulation, then re-inserted Anthony in overtime and was mostly rewarded by both decisions. Grant made some clutch baskets to force the extra five minutes, while Anthony buried a pick and pop three-pointer and also made a crucial steal in overtime. In some segments of the waning seconds, Donovan went with Grant instead of Steven Adams as well.

Denver found a way to answer every one of those moves, including in overtime. The teams traded baskets before Brewer made just one of two free throws, and Denver guard Jamal Murray hit a brutally tough elbow jumper on the move to take the lead for good.

Westbrook missed a catch and shoot three late in the shot clock in addition to seeing a driving layup roll off the rim and the ball go off his leg on a drive. The Thunder’s defense held firm, continually giving the offense a chance, but the conversions didn’t come. The last gasp came when George forced a jump ball and then won it, but Grant’s game-winning layup try with 6 seconds to go was blocked.

“I probably should have given him a pump fake or something,” Grant stated. “I just made the wrong play.”

The Nuggets closed it out with free throws, and the Thunder slipped to 44-33 and into the West’s 6th spot with 5 games to play.

Highlights: Thunder vs. Nuggets

By the Numbers

33-13 – The Thunder’s edge in fast break scoring in the game, aided by a 15-8 advantage in turnovers forced

52.1 – Shooting percentage for the Nuggets in the game, who got a combined 59 points from Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic

68-40 – The Nuggets advantage in points in the paint in the game, as the Thunder shot just 20-of-44

The Last Word

"We dug ourselves a hole there in the third quarter and did a really good job fighting back in the game... ”We had some opportunities and some plays that we didn't make necessarily coming down the stretch." – Head Coach Billy Donovan


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