It seems easy, right? You win three games, you’ve proven you’re the better team, you’ve shown you can win on their floor, you’ve totally and completely demoralized them and all you have to do is do it once more and the series is through. But it never is, as the Oklahoma City Thunder found out Monday night as the Nuggets held the line, particularly the 3-point line, and got a win to make the series 3-1 headed back to OKC.
Sure, the Thunder are likely to finish the thing off in Game 5. But like the Spurs trying to fend off the Grizzlies, one win and the series is 3-2, and then the series comes back to Denver with a chance to knot it up.
Then again, once more the Thunder had a chance to close out the game, and this time couldn’t overcome their own mistakes. Russell Westbrook wanted to win this game. He was desperate to win this game. So much so that he deliberately ignored his teammates down the stretch and forced the shot, resulting in terrible decisions and a game where the Nuggets faced the razor blade and managed not to get cut.
The big difference for the Nuggets? 9-19, 47% from 3-point range. Ty Lawson was huge with 27 points, constantly working to get to the rim. Danilo Gallinari finally stepped up, hitting 3-4 from deep and getting 18 points on 13 shots. When Gallinari is engaged, the Nuggets are an entirely different team. Meanwhile, the Thunder never got anyone outside of the Big 2 involved. The result is they have to try to close out the Nuggets in five, wasting precious time they could be getting healthy. The hardest thing for a young team to learn is how close out a team. The Thunder still haven’t figure that out.