Brian Shaw is running the game for Denver these days, and so far as I can tell, he’s pretty much memorized George Karl’s notebooks. Certainly these Nuggets have the same swarm-and-overcome tendency of previous Nuggets, and after OKC took a 2-0 lead early, Denver was utterly dominant, taking a lead as large as 14. Still, the Thunder are hard to beat at home, and with just over four minutes left they squirted ahead 103-102. The biggest play of the night might have been with 7.8 seconds left, with Serge Ibaka called for goaltending, putting Denver within two at 112-110. Russell Westbrook got one of two free throws to make it 113-110; Ty Lawson, attempting to miss the second of two, actually hit it. Derek Fisher got a pair of freebies, Westbrook fouled Lawson, and Lawson went back to exactly the same scenario. Lawson did in fact miss this time, and it went out of bounds off Nick Collison; the Nuggets got one more chance with 2.2 left, but that’s where it ended, OKC 115, Denver 113.
George Karl, however, would not have countenanced missing 18 of 43 free throws, as Denver did. (OKC went 26-32.) The Nuggets did shoot better 46 percent versus 40 though the 3-ball was falling for OKC, which made 13 of 27. (Denver was 8-23.) And J. J. Hickson, as always, had the Thunder’s number: this time he had 18 points and gathered 19 rebounds. Lawson finished with a team-high 29.
Still, it took 30 from Westbrook and 38 from Kevin Durant to seal the deal: combined they went 21-52. (The rest of the team was 17-41.) The Thunder did have a slight edge on the boards, 53-45, though the number you want to hear is 19, which is the number of offensive retrievals. Lots of second-chance and a couple of third-chance points.
The Clippers will be here Thurday. Expect ferocity.