The evening started out with Oscar Robertson singing the praises of Russell Westbrook, and ended with radio guy Matt Pinto wondering where the hell this motley bunch of kids was supposed to be finding any offense. It wasn’t going to be from Westbrook, who played the first half only and finished with a stunningly irrelevant 5-5-8. Andre Roberson and Doug McDermott sat. The Thunder scored 38 in the second quarter, only 41 in the third and fourth, and the Nuggets gradually worked themselves into a 10-point lead before winning it by six, 111-105. Nor were these the regular Nuggets: Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari saw no playing time. Of course, this game meant nothing except the fact that it was the last regular-season game; Denver had already been eliminated from the playoffs — lest we forget, by the Thunder — and we know that it’s going to be Houston/OKC in the first round. Still, one hates to go out with a shrug.
Denver big Nikola Jokić came up really big for the Nuggets, with 29 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists. This may be explained partially by Mike Malone’s decision to play only seven men, leaving Jokić in for 40 minutes. Of those seven, five scored in double figures, and Juancho Hernangomez just missed with nine. (Mike Miller made no shots, but claimed eight boards.) High scorers for OKC were Taj Gibson and Jerami Grant, with, um, 13 each. And the big difference, really, was at the foul line, where the Nuggets were 26-32 and the Thunder 11-17.
Now forget all these numbers. The season is over. OKC finishes 47-35, which is probably a tick or two better than anyone anticipated after the defection of that Durant guy. Give Westbrook credit where it’s due, and let’s hope he’s up to the task of dealing with the Rockets, who were 3-1 against the Thunder this year.