Just as the Nuggets need to come together as a team, we’ll be gathering for tonight’s game at Jake’s Food & Spirits to watch the game with as many Stiffs as possible. RSVP HERE. I don’t think we’ll be able to match the crowd noise expected at Oklahoma City Arena, but spirits will be high in downtown Denver.

I honestly have no idea what to expect in tonight’s Game 5 on the road. The Nuggets came out and had a special performance in the second half of Game 4, but the Thunder players didn’t give up or concede the game. No, they fought back from a 9 point deficit at the 2:54 mark to actually have a shot to tie the game with a final heave by Russell Westbrook.

Things are not going to be easy for the Nuggets and they'll probably have to play nearly perfect in order to extend this series to a Game 6 back in Denver. And that near perfect game will mean hitting free throws. Check out the numbers from the charity stripe for Denver and OKC in this series:

Free Throws:

  • Game 1: Denver 21-33 (63.6%) / OKC 22-28 (78.6%)
  • Game 2: Denver 28-37 (75.7%) / OKC 24-28 (85.7%)
  • Game 3: Denver 30-45 (66.7%) / OKC 33-43 (76.7%)
  • Game 4: Denver 31-44 (70.5%) / OKC 24-31 (77.4%)
The Nuggets have had more attempts than the Thunder in every single game in this series. The weird part, or not so weird if you’ve been watching, the Thunder have made more foul shots in two of those four games. The advantage the Nuggets’ aggression has given them has not been used to their advantage once they get the free throws. OKC has had higher made percentages in all four games. The only way I see things changing in the Nuggets’ favor, as far as makes go, is if Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith, and perhaps Danilo Gallinari are the ones taking the bulk of the foul shots.

Another area the Nuggets could use some instant help would be from beyond the three-point line. Let's take a look at the long bomb stats from this series:

Three-point Shooting:

  • Game 1: Denver 4-16 (25%) / OKC 9-19 (47.4%)
  • Game 2: Denver 7-16 (43.8%) / OKC 10-30 (33.3%)
  • Game 3: Denver 6-23 (26.1%) / OKC 6-21 (28.6%)
  • Game 4: Denver 9-19 (47.4%) / OKC 7-19 (36.8%)
Both teams like to take a lot of three-pointers and the Nuggets defensive style lends itself to permitting a lot of open looks from the outside. The Thunder have taken plenty of shots from deep in this series and Kevin Durant has had a maddening amount of open looks (how do you let their biggest threat have so many open shots?!?). OKC has made Denver pay for leaving them open making 6+ threes in every game. The Nuggets have been cold, hot, cold, and hot from deep and have shot better from beyond the arc in every game since the first one.

I have griped about George Karl‘s player rotations in this series on this blog, to myself, and to those who are willing to talk to me. But as evidenced above, Karl can only do so much and his players must execute when given the minutes.

I would hate to think of Game 4 as being only a one-time effort to save the team from being swept. There is really no reason why the Nuggets can't win tonight's game. There is not much of a difference between these two teams from a competitive standpoint. Every game has been up for grabs, sans for Game 2, and I'm hoping that the Nuggets give themselves a chance to win this game in the second half. 

We should have a good crowd watching the game up at Jake's and I know I'll be glad watching the game with my fellow Stiffs. One game at a time.

To the links…

Q&A with ESPN.com's John Hollinger – Darnell Mayberry, NewsOK
Mainly talk about the Thunder, but a couple cool questions about Hollinger's quirky stats.

Nuggets have been nothing but crybabies – Jenni Carlson, NewsOK
When Mark Cuban talks about keeping some web reporters out of his locker room, I hope this reporter makes that list as well. A horrific one-sided article that complains about complaining, has no mention of the Thunder issues on the court with the officials (even though it was updated after Game 4), and claims the author has no concern for who wins the series. I actually emailed Carlson and asked her about some Thunder player reactions from Game 4 and received just a quick response telling me I was a big man for sending an email "AFTER" the game was already over and she failed to mention any of my questions about the OKC on-court tirades. Pure garbage … much like the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla – these columnists who bring nothing to the table should be kept away from writing about the game we all love.

Looking back at the Thunder's final five minutes from Game 4 – Royce Young, Thunder Daily
Some excellent insight and thoughts from the ESPN Truehoop Thunder blog. Those guys do a great job over there and actually write about the things fans of both teams care about. Major props.

Back in Oklahoma City, Nuggets prep for Game 5 vs. Thunder – Chris Dempsey, Denver Post
Dempsey talks about the pressure being back on the Thunder a little bit and has some quotes from Lawson and Karl.


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