DENVER - Denver Nuggets coach George Karl will get another crack at properly identifying the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena.
His Nuggets prevented a series sweep with a 104-101 survival in Game 4 on Monday night inside the Pepsi Center to force Game 5.
Perhaps he is simply playing more mind games with the youngest roster in the NBA playoffs, but Karl frequently has categorized the Thunder as a "jump-shot team" throughout this opening-round series.
Saying a team relies on jump shots is viewed as the equivalent of saying that team is soft and shies away from physical play, yet the Thunder has out-rebounded the Nuggets in all four games.
In addition, jump-shot teams don't frequently go to the free-throw line, yet OKC finished second in the league in free-throw attempts at 29.3 per game.
OKC coach Scott Brooks quickly shook off Karl's assessment, which is as close as Brooks ever gets to losing his cool.
"I don't look at ourselves as a jump-shooting team," Brooks said. "To me, that's a little bit of a 'soft' team. We get to the free-throw line just as much as they do."
Denver led the league at 29.6 free-throw attempts per game and similar to the Thunder, the Nuggets pride themselves as a transition team that constantly attacks.
"I don't know if we're a jump-shooting team or not, but I do know we play aggressive," OKC point guard Russell Westbrook said.
Denver Post columnist Mark Kizla also fueled the flames.
"As a championship contender, Oklahoma City is a fraud," Kizla wrote after Game 3. "The Thunder is a collection of soft jump-shooters and irritable hotheads. This young team has undeniable basketball ability but a lot of growing up to do … The jump shot of (Kevin) Durant, who doesn't like to get dirty, has betrayed him for most of this series. He is soft and adds little besides scoring. Wasn't that the rap on (Carmelo) Anthony in Denver?
"That's not a chip on the shoulder of Westbrook, but a whole bag of Hershey morsels. Here's betting he will implode when push comes to shove in later postseason rounds as the tension builds."
Brooks again came to his team's defense.
"No question, Kevin is one of the best pin-down players in the game, and we do take advantage of him coming off screens," Brooks said. "I wouldn't be very smart if I didn't take advantage of that. Russell is an attack player. James Harden is an attack player. When Serge (Ibaka) gets around the basket, he can be an attack player. We're both. I think the good teams have a mixture of both, being able to shoot shots and being able to attack."
The Thunder became notably more physical on Feb. 24 when centers Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed arrived via trades.
"I think we're a physical team," Brooks said. "I think our guys have stepped up and played aggressive basketball. Perk definitely adds to that. Nick (Collison), Nazr and Serge, they're our interior defenders who add to our toughness. It's easy to look at Kevin and see what he does offensively and to think that he's not tough, but he's as tough as anyone on our team.
"I think we're definitely more physical now, not taking anything away from the other guys and not comparing or contrasting the two guys who were traded away (Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green)."
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