After coasting effortlessly to a 20 point lead one quarter of the way through the game, the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared to have a bit of a fight on their hands as the Nuggets scrapped and clawed their way back into the game during the second quarter. This only made Kevin Durant angry as he caught fire from downtown, finishing 7-12 from behind the three point line. Durant lead all scores with 40 points as the Thunder rolled, 124-114.
Russell Westbrook contributed 26 points and 9 assists for OKC. Rookie sensation Mitch McGary tallied his second double-double in as many days finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. McGary appears poised to fill Nick Collison's sneakers when the changing of the guard eventually occurs. The former Wolverine flopped onto the deck a number of times with varying results, but their is no denying his offensive polish in the post. If he can stay healthy he should be able to add much needed offensive oomph from the post without sacrificing hustle and effort often provided from the chippy crew of Steven Adams, Kendrick Perkins, and Collison.
Denver had four starters in double figures. Wilson Chandler lead all Nuggets with 23 points. His outside shot was off, but he attacked the basket early and often and racked up most of his points in the paint. His aggressiveness set the tone for the Denver offense and was a key to keeping the game from getting too far out of hand.
Kenneth Faried (22/10) and Jusuf Nurkic (16/14) both had double-doubles while Ty Lawson scored 22 and dished out 9 assists. Nurkic played 34 minutes tonight, much more than usual. He only had 3 fouls halfway through the fourth quarter, but like bananas the Bosnian Bear's fouls come in bunches. He fouled out in the final two minutes of play. Nurkic missed his first couple shots, but stuck with it and had a nice offensive game.
I certainly expected this game to be much worse, especially after being down by 20 so early in the game, Homie. While the defensive fight and intensity was lacking (and why wouldn't it, it's only one of Brian Shaw's key elements to the team's identity) the Nuggs brought it on offense. Unfortunately, Denver is not the type of team that can burn brighter or longer than OKC in a firefight and the star-power of Durant especially eclipsed anything the Nuggets could throw at them.
Denver matched or outscored the Thunder in 3 of the 4 quarters. Denver even held OKC to less than 20 points in the final period.
Coach Shaw only played J.J. Hickson 12 minutes. Less is more! J.J. still finished second to last in plus/minus at -15.
Nuggets were able to get under Kevin Durant's skin in the third quarter. Iceberg Slim picked up a Flagrant One and a Technical Foul in the same play after he shoved Kenneth Faried to the floor and threw the basketball at him while Manimal was on the ground. This was in the midst of a Nugget rally that continued after the team made all 3 free throws and scored after retaining possession.
The game never stopped being entertaining. It helped that Durant delivered the good tonight, but Denver could have rolled over and lost this one 120-60. The fact that they didn't was encouraging. The fact that I just typed those two sentences shows how truly awful this season has been.
Bring on the Lakers!