After the debacles in Portland and Los Angeles, I was prepared for the Thunder to show up at the Pepsi Center with all the strength of an uncapped, stale Diet Coke. And indeed, there were long stretches when Mentos could wander onto the premises undisturbed. But Oklahoma City put together a 15-0 run early in the fourth quarter, and while the Nuggets fought back to within four several times in the last minute, clutch free throws put it out of Denver’s reach, 101-94.
Ty Lawson did what he could: he racked up 28 points, a career high, while doing a creditable impression of The Flash. The Nuggets’ frontcourt Nenê, Kenyon Martin and Danilo Gallinari combined for 38 points and 21 rebounds. But the Denver bench tended to lose ground against the OKC reserves, led by Eric Maynor (10 points) and James Harden (13).
And the Thunder were in a rebounding mood, pulling down 50 boards. Kendrick Perkins had 14 of them. (Before you ask: he took no foul shots.) Serge Ibaka had 11 more. And the Durant/Westbrook Axis was working pretty well, garnering 50 points.
Is this a preview of the first round of the playoffs? Considering that OKC is a fairly-solid fourth in the conference, and that Denver has a two-game lead for fifth, it’s at least a reasonable possibility. It may become more so when the Nuggets come to the Your Name Here Arena Friday night. But before that, there’s a rematch with the Clippers on Wednesday.