The Thunder lost the first two games of this road trip, and perhaps they were hoping the 6-9 Nuggets would present an easier match. (Which would be dumb, considering that Wednesday night they were beaten by the 5-9 Kings.) Denver, unsurprisingly, proved unwilling to roll over and die. And while OKC managed to stay mostly even with the Nuggets in the first half, in the second half Denver started to pull away and an offensive-oriented Thunder lineup, able to score but unable to get stops, basically sat there and watched. With four minutes left, the Nuggets were up 114-103; OKC swapped out Anthony Morrow for Victor Oladipo, and Russell Westbrook scored the next nine points to make it a two-point game. A Jameer Nelson trey followed, but then OKC knocked down six in a row, four from Oladipo and two from Westbrook, to take a one-point lead. The Thunder held on the next possession, Westbrook nailed two free throws, Wilson Chandler opted to go for a certain two rather than a possible three, and with 10 seconds left, it was Oklahoma City 120, Denver 119. Morrow returned; the Nuggets immediately fouled; Westbrook went back to the foul line and hit two more. Jamal Murray put up a trey; it went awry, but Steven Adams fouled him, and Murray delivered all three free throws for a 122-all tie. (“OKC finding new ways to lose,” quipped Royce Young.) Still 8 seconds left. Kenneth Faried blocked a Westbrook jumper, and overtime was upon us.
With 20 seconds left and the Thunder up 129-127, the Nuggets took possession. Chandler somehow missed a layup — did Adams swat it away? — and coming back, Westbrook wound up with two more foul shots, Murray put up a shot, Westbrook ended up with the ball, and finished the job with one more free throw, making it 132-127 with seven seconds left. The Nuggets did get off one final shot, leaving the final at 132-129. (I am told the over/under was 215. Ha.)
Westbrook, as always, has numbers: 36-12-18. (Eighteen dimes ties the season high; his career high is 19.) The new kids were doing well: Joffrey Lauvergne, ex-Nugget, collected 15 points, and Domas Sabonis added 13. And so were the old-timers: Morrow had 10, his first double-figure game of the season, and Oladipo cleaned up with 26. Not that Denver slouched about: Chandler scored 30, Jameer Nelson 21, and Murray 20. OKC shot 51 percent, Denver 48, though the Nuggets, the league’s leading rebounders, had a 51-40 advantage on the boards.
Tomorrow night in OKC, with the Pistons, who just finished beating the Clippers and who’ve already beaten the Thunder in Auburn Hills. Second night of a back-to-back for both. Does this cancel out? I have no idea.