After a 41-24 first quarter, you might be forgiven if your mind wandered elsewhere, say, to “How is it that the 76ers have lost 24 in a row and still aren’t last in the league?” (The answer, of course, is that they were 15-31 when the streak began, not what anyone would call great, but not appreciably worse, percentage-wise, than the current Lakers.) Anyway, it was 72-58 at the half, and presumably at some point during the halftime show some mischievous imp nailed a lid on each rim: third quarter was OKC 18, Denver 15. Now how do you get 41 points in the first quarter and only 18 in the third? Don’t worry about it. The Thunder regained some mojo in the fourth quarter, and dispatched the depleted (and debatably demoralized) Denverites 117-96, taking the season series 3-1.
There was one thing the Nuggets did superbly well: accumulate free throws. This was accomplished by, well, drawing a lot of fouls from the Thunder: Andre Roberson had six (again), Derek Fisher and Nick Collison five each, Caron Butler and Steven Adams four. Denver took 40 shots from the stripe. And if they’d made more than 27 of them — but let’s not go there. What’s more, all five Denver starters hit double figures, though four of them were clustered at 11 and 12. Ty Lawson had 25, including 13-16 on free throws. For a forced nine-man rotation — that’s all he had, injuries having mounted in recent weeks — you have to figure that Brian Shaw did just about everything he could.
This was a Restbrook evening, so Reggie Jackson started at the point, and ran up 16 points and a career-high 11 assists. Kevin Durant, who exited after a mere 31 minutes — nobody from OKC played more than 33 or so — departed with 27 points in hand. Sidelights: Adams, playing more than usual due to the absence of Hasheem Thabeet, had six of the Thunder’s 13 steals; Jeremy Lamb got twenty minutes and two points. (Butler, widely seen as the reason why Lamb gets so few minutes, played 29 minutes and scored 23.) And any day Collison gets a trey is all right with me.
Tomorrow night in Dallas, presumably with Westbrook back and everyone reasonably well rested. Oh, and the Sixers lost again — this time to San Antonio, which means the Spurs stay two games ahead of the Thunder in the West. Philadelphia remains a game and a half in front of the Bucks.