Berry Tramel

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Thunder: Late drama vs. Nuggets standard for Saturday

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm •  Published: April 24, 2011

Four NBA playoff games were staged. Some were close games. Some were one-sided. Remarkably, all four came down to the same script: a team in the final five seconds has a 3-pointer to win or tie.

Technically, that’s not true. San Antonio never got off its 3-pointer, down three at Memphis.

But think about it. It would be hard to find four more widely different games. Indiana was blowing out Chicago and had the game in hand with about two minutes left. Dallas was blowing out Portland and led by 23 points late in the third quarter. Memphis was up, what, 14 on San Antone before the Spurs caught up early in the fourth quarter. And the Thunder stretched a tight game to a 10-point lead late.

Yet all four games came down to the final possession. All four offensive possessions failed, which meant Indiana, Portland, Memphis and OKC held on.

Welcome to the NBA. Welcome to the NBA playoffs, where teams are never out of it, and the opera isn’t over til the fat lady sings three or four times.

Compared to some meltdowns, the Thunder’s dramatics wasn’t awful. Dallas blew a 23-point lead and Indiana led by 13 points with two minutes. OKC led 94-84 with 49 seconds left, then needed James Harden’s stellar defense on J.R. Smith in the final five seconds to avoid a possible 3-pointer that would have tied the game.

The Thunder has to be more composed, I think we can all agree. The worst play was Kendrick Perkins’ full-court pass, which sailed out of bounds with 44.3 seconds left, after Ty Lawson scored to draw Denver with 94-86. Hey, some of these Thunder pups might not know how to play under playoff pressure, but Perkins? Is that the kind of play they try in Boston?

That kind of error shows you it doesn’t take much. After that, the Thunder made bad play after bad play. Failure to rebound a foul shot let the Nuggets have an extra possession, then Kevin Durant went 1-of-2 and Russell Westbrook 0-of-2 on foul shots. It doesn’t take much.

The Nuggets were right back in it and drew within 95-94 on another J.R. Smith rainbow 3-pointer. Then came the most heads-up play by the Thunder down the stretch. James Harden took an inbounds pass in a little traffic and found Durant on the side. Durant then reeled a long pass to a wide open Serge Ibaka, who dunked for a 57-54 lead with 10.5 seconds left.

The ESPN crew wondered if Ibaka should have tried to take off more time, but that’s silly. You’ve just seen Durant and Westbrook trade in four points for one, at the foul line. Take the points when you can get them.

Anyway, the Thunder has to be better in late-game situations. But the Boomers will be. That’s what playoff experience is all about. You don’t get it down at the NBA Store. You get it through growing pains in harrowing games.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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