Tag: Thunder Nuggets

Russell Westbrook

NBA Playoffs: Serge Ibaka swats Thunder into the second round


Is there a more fun team to watch play than the Oklahoma City Thunder?

They are pure passion on a basketball court. It was true again Wednesday night as this game had everything a basketball fan (especially an Oklahoma City one) could want — a come from behind win (they were down 9 at the three minutes left), big shots from Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and bigger ones from Kevin Durant (he finished with 41). Durant helped the Thunder take the lead on running floater across the lane — how do you defend a floater that a 6’9” player releases with his arm over his head?

But in the end, it was Serge Ibaka that won this game.

He had 9 blocks including two late in the game on Nene that sparked the 100-97 win for the Thunder, who advance to the second round for the first time since coming to the Midwest.

In a sense, this game played out like most of the series — Denver was plucky, energetic, they hit shots and made plays. Wilson Chandler awoke from his slumber and hit key shots. Ty Lawson was slashing the lane, as was Raymond Felton.

But with the game on the line, when it becomes harder to make those plays, the Thunder have the better athletes. They made the big plays. Usually we’re referring to Durant and Westbrook, not Ibaka. But this game the Thunder won with defense as much as offense.

The Thunder defended well, holding the Nuggets to 100 points per 100 possessions, which is 12 points below their league-leading regular season average. Oklahoma City has defended well all series and that was the key to their win. There used to be questions about their ability to defend inside but Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka change that.

And that should worry the rest of the teams in the West.

As for Denver, it should be proud.

A lot of teams would have folded after the Carmelo Anthony trade, but Denver played better team basketball at both ends of the floor. They played with a chip on their shoulder. They showed that there is some real talent on this team. It still needs its star — it’s Durant — but even without someone like that the Nuggets showed just good team play can go a long way. There is something there to build on.

The Thunder will try to build on this in the second round against Memphis or San Antonio, two teams that will continue to beat each other up while the Thunder sit at home and rest. And wait.

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Thunder’s Durant, Westbrook had heated exchange during Game 4

Oklahoma City Thunder v Charlotte Bobcats

You don’t want to read too much into this — Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen argued, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale yelled at each other on occasion, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had… okay, the last one is a bad example.

But according to TNT’s Pam Oliver, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant had a heated exchange during Oklahoma City’s Game 4 loss Monday.

It probably had something to do with Westbrook being a ball hog for the night — Westbrook had 30 points but took 30 shots to get there, putting up a Kobe-the-gunner line. Durant had 31 points, took just 18 shots, but wanted more. Westbrook has that in him, you see flashes during the season when he decided he wanted to take over but he is not efficient doing it. And he has Durant on the team, feed that guy the ball.

That doesn’t mean the fight matters. Guys argue then forget about it and move on all the time. Part of the game, as both coach Scott Brooks and Durant told the Oklahoman.

“It was all about trying to do the right thing,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We got to get a stop. That’s what it was about. We got to stop the ball. Their point guards are getting inside the paint. The bigs and the guards have got to do a better job of stopping the basketball. That’s what the conversation was about.

“It’s funny because it’s in the playoffs on national TV, but it happens a lot. It doesn’t happen every timeout every game. But guys are emotional. Guys care about what we do and they express that and I like that. I do the same thing….”

“We’ve been doing that all season,” Durant said. “That’s a part of a basketball team. You’re not going to always be happy all the time. … Sometimes you have to scream at guys for them to get the point. That’s what we were doing.”

It doesn’t matter. Now, if they go at it again in a Game 5 loss at home Wednesday we can talk. But I don’t think we have to worry about that.

NBA Playoffs: Doom, thy name is Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets - Game Three
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Well, that was fun while it lasted.

It was nice to think Thunder-Nuggets was going to be an all-out clash of the titans. With thunder and lightning and demons and sorcery and the whole shebang. Instead, we get the Thunder, out-executing the Nuggets when it matters and where it matters in every game and a team without a star trying to rally around itself while down 3-0. The home crowd could be ready to fight tooth and nail, or it could be ready to concede a season lost to instability. The same could be said for the players.

The Nuggets aren’t slowing down Kevin Durant. They did a decent job in Game 3 and still lost. Their best chance came in Game 1 when Durant and Westbrok went off and the rest of the team was held in check. Things got away in Games 2 and 3 when James Harden and Serge Ibaka got involved. The solution? Give Durant the Kobe treatment. Let him go off, but shut down Westbrook by any means necessary (or possible) and keep the other guys down. The Nuggets bigs have to do a better job of holding control of the glass, especially against Ibaka, and Nene is going to have to have a big game.

For the Thunder? More of the same. Sharp execution. Durant being Durant. Westbook being Westbrook. Execute, and this team gets time to rest… young legs (?) before the next series. The Nuggets are down on the mat. If you’re the Thunder and you want to send a message about your inexperience, this is the game. Put the foot down.

The Nuggets cannot bring their small-ball lineup. Their most successful lineup against the Nuggets has featured Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Kenyon Martin, and Nene. Their worst top-five-in-minutes lineup this series has featured the same lineup, only with dual point guards in Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson. Getting Afflalo back wasn’t overall successful, but the Nuggets found somethings that worked.

Nene has to be huge in this game. Absolutely pivotal. He’s arguably the Nuggets’ best player, one with playoff experience but not hampered with age. He needs to be physical and dominant on both sides of the floor. As he goes, the Nuggets go.

And if he doesn’t go, the Nuggets are going home.

NBA Playoffs: Thunder nearly blow lead vs. Nuggets, take 3-0 lead, or did they?


So this should go over well in Denver.

Let’s start with the controversy. Here’s the final play in Denver in the Thunder’s win over the Nuggets. You decide.

Did Harden get him on the arm? Did he go straight up?

That’s about as close as it gets.

Nothing will change the result, however. Thunder win, 97-94, 3-0 series lead for the young’ns from OKC.

It was a haymaker-type of game. Just when one team would think they had the advantage, the other team would storm back. Kevin Durant had an inefficient night, so Russell Westbrook stepped up with 23 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists to just two turnovers, doing most of his damage from the free-throw line (11-of-13). J.R. Smith decided to show up for Denver (15 points, 4-of-9 from the arc)? That’s OK, Serge Ibaka roars back with a career playoff-high 22 points to go along with 16 rebounds. The Thunder thought they had the game under control when they hit the afterburners and blew right past the Nuggets, only to nearly surrender the lead thanks to costly turnovers. The Nuggets roared back, they had a shot to win … and it just didn’t work out for them.

In reality, the Nuggets have never really seemed to have control of this series. They’ve had their fair share of leads, this isn’t like Sixers-Heat, or even Celtics-Knicks. But the Thunder have had an answer for every adjustment the Nuggets have made. Even on a night when Durant doesn’t have it, their role players step up. The Nuggets have little excuse for how this one ended up. They shot a better percentage from the field. They had more free throws, a constant complaint of teams against the foul-drawing Thunder. They turned the ball over a few more times, were outrebounded a few times. But the real problem was free throws.

The Nuggets left 15 points on the court at the line — 30-of-45 from the stripe, with Nene hitting just 5-of-10. It’s easy to point to those in most games, but here, with the Nuggets hitting just 67 percent, there’s no way around it. They really did lose that game, and probably the series, at the free-throw line.

So now the Thunder will try to close out the series in Game 4. Denver has been an emotional roller-coaster this entire season, and Smith’s postgame outburst at the lack of a foul will probably not endear him to the zebras. The Nuggets needed to rely on their home crowd to push the Thunder, and instead, OKC has weathered the storm. They’ve gone into a hostile environment, up 2-0, taken their opponents’ stiffest punch, and walloped them back with their Ibaka haymaker.

The Thunder look like they could be the championship contender people have started discussing them as, and they need just one more roundhouse to put the Nuggets down for the count and set off an uncertain future for Denver, while they head on to face … well, we don’t have any idea who they’ll face in the second round.

But with every game, the Thunder look stronger and stronger.

Frustrated J.R. Smith says he likely wont re-sign with Nuggets

Nuggets guard Smith celebrates a three-point shot in their NBA basketball game against the Timberwolves in Denver

They are frustrated in Denver. They have not been able to solve the Oklahoma City Thunder puzzle and are now down 2-0 in their first round playoff series.

J.R. Smith’s frustration boiled over Thursday, to the point he says he may choose not to re-sign with the Nuggets this summer, he told Benjamin Hochman at the Denver Post.

“There’s a strong possibility (he will sign elsewhere) as of right now,” Smith said. “It’s not going the way I planned it to go. It’s a tough situation. I want to be here, I love the fans and everything about the city. It’s just maybe not my fit.”

The Nuggets had a team meeting on Thursday and Smith said the team didn’t have “a pulse” as they regrouped at Pepsi Center.

“Just frustration, just really didn’t have any life in there,” Smith said. “No one was really into it.”

Smith played less than 7 minutes in Game 2 — he was 1-for-6 in a stretch at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second when Denver was outscored by 16 and the Thunder pulled away for good. Smith never got n the floor in the second half.

So he’s frustrated. Good. If he were happy or even okay with how things have gone for Denver then we’d be talking a bigger problem.

But Smith’s agent should be telling him to be quiet. First off, Denver is a good fit and may be willing to pay more than other teams for Smith’s services (whenever we have a free agent signing period after the lockout). Well, maybe they were willing. This didn’t endear Smith to the Nuggets, questioning his team’s passion in the middle of a playoff series.

That and what team GM just read those quotes and said, “that’s a guy I want in my locker room, a guy who throws the team under the bus when faced with adversity.”

Nuggets fans, sorry. But do you want some good news?

Arron Afflalo says he is good to go and will be back for Game 3. It’s a start. And you know he will bring defense and passion.