It all came down to this.
Game tied at 103, Nuggets ball, less than 10 seconds remaining. Ty Lawson gets isolation on the wing against Thabo Sefolosha, who is known as an above-average defender.
Sefolosha plays Lawson for the drive, which isn’t a bad idea considering Lawson’s rep as one of the speediest guards in the league. But with so little time remaining, it was a mistake.
Lawson was given too much space by his defender, and made his move with just a couple of seconds remaining on the clock, before draining the game-winner from just inside the three-point line to seal the win for the Nuggets.
Denver is a weird team to play, in that they kill you with speed and athleticism, but you never know who will be the one ultimately doing the damage offensively on any given night. In this one, only one of Denver’s five starters cracked double digits in scoring in a game where the Nuggets dropped 105 points — and Lawson wouldn’t have gotten to 11 without this final shot.
Instead, the scoring came via a career night off the bench from Wilson Chandler, who poured in 35 points to match a career-high he set back in 2010 while playing for the Knicks. Chandler has scored in double digits for Denver just 10 times all season, so one would guess that the Thunder might have been fairly surprised by this rather sudden outburst.
But this has been happening all season with the Nuggets. They have a deep team with guys who can produce, and while not everyone does it consistently, thus far, someone always seems to step up — whether for an entire game like in this one, or for short bursts that give the Nuggets a boost when they need it most.
The Thunder got a huge night out of Russell Westbrook, who finished with a game-high 38 points. Kevin Durant finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but it took him 20 shots to get there.
Oklahoma City lost the battle of turnovers, points in the paint, and fast break points, yet still were tied with the game’s final seconds ticking away. And, it took Lawson — who was 4-13 from the field to that point — hitting one of the worst shots in basketball (the long two) over one of the Thunder’s premier perimeter defenders for OKC to leave with the loss.
Denver is not a great team, but they continue to get the most out of the talent assembled on its roster, most of which is uniquely suited to play within the team’s system. The insanely timely contributions will likely stop at some point, but until then, Nuggets fans can enjoy the ride, and enjoy pulling out exciting wins like this over one of the league’s top teams.
Great shot, Ty Lawson. But the Bernie Lean celebration? You’re better than that.