Statistic I’d seen at TrueHoop (and mentioned at game’s end by radio guy Matt Pinto): “How important is Game 1 of this series? George Karl is 0-10 in any best-of-seven series in which his team loses Game 1.”
And someone asked me the other day what I thought would happen with this playoff series. Said I, the Thunder win it in six, but those two losses will be ugly.
Well, there was a bit of ugliness in those last two shots Russell Westbrook put up, but they both went down, and they turned a one-point deficit into a three-point Thunder lead, to which the Nuggets had one response: they fouled Kevin Durant, who sank two free throws to extend the lead to five. Danilo Gallinari drew a foul coming back and brought Denver back to within three, but by then there were only six seconds left and the Nuggets were out of timeouts. Denver fouled, of course, and Westbrook hit one of two at the stripe to put it out of reach, 107-103, giving George Karl a healthy start toward 0-11.
Not that the Nuggets were really out of this one: they led early, sometimes by double figures, though the Thunder had closed to within one by halftime. Measures of closeness: Denver hit 39-77 from the floor, Oklahoma City 38-77; OKC had 37 rebounds, Denver 34; OKC suffered 11 turnovers, Denver gave up 11; scoring in the fourth quarter was 21-21. Nenê, who departed for a few moments with a reported knee contusion, came back to finish a 22-point performance; Gallinari added 18 more. The Ty Lawson/Raymond Felton combine served up 13 assists and 22 points.
But then there was Westbrook, who ran the point most of the night for OKC, finishing with 31. And there was Durant, who finished with 41 and nine rebounds, both game-high. Then again, these guys are All-Stars, and that’s what All-Stars do in the playoffs. (Eric Maynor added 12 points in less than twelve minutes.)
The series resumes Wednesday at the House With No Name.