Thunder Wins Round Two Against Nuggets
News, notes and observations from Friday’s 104-89 win over the Denver Nuggets.
- Nobody from the Thunder really wanted to acknowledge how big this week’s two victories against the Nuggets were. That’s too bad. Doesn’t matter, though. I think we all know they were huge. To get two convincing victories against the team you’re all but guaranteed to play in the first round should do wonders for this team’s confidence. Sure, the playoffs are different and the series goes back to zero-zero. But the Thunder has the all-so important mental advantage. That can’t be ignored.
- I’m wondering how much of a difference Arron Afflalo, Chris Andersen and Timofey Mozgov would make. Just something to consider. They certainly won’t hurt the Nuggets.
- I felt like I was watching Butler UConn all over again in the first quarter. Wait, the first 12 minutes of Butler-UConn might have been better than the opening period tonight.
- If this is the first-round series, good luck to the officiating crews that get assigned to this series. Kendrick Perkins and Nene are sure to have it out. I can’t wait to see it.
- Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. But we’ve never seen an on-court fight in Oklahoma City’s NBA history. I can’t remember the Hornets having one during their two years here. And the Thunder’s altercations have never amounted to more than jawing and a few shoves. Perk might be on pace to break the streak.
- How good was the bench tonight? Eric Maynor, James Harden, Nazr Mohammed, Daequan Cook and Nick Collison all played their roles to perfection. Harden was instant offense. Maynor made great decisions all night and helped build big leads. Cook sparked a second-quarter run. Collison was gritty inside and on the boards (career-high eight offensive rebounds). And Mohammed was just money offensively in the fourth quarter.
- Someone asked me on Twitter about the chances Mohammed returns. If I’m the Thunder I’m seriously looking into re-signing him. The guy has skills and is incredible useful and efficient. Even if Byron Mullens or Cole Aldrich develop enough to supplant him in the rotation, he’d be a pretty dang good third string center for emergence purposes.
- Russell Westbrook made an extremely smart decision in the first quarter to take over. It was the switch I’ve been referring to. He came out trying to be patient and get everyone else involved. And after the Thunder started 0-for-6 from the field and Russ saw it wasn’t working, Westbrook said enough of this. He promptly buried three straight jumpers to give the Thunder a lift.
- Not sure why Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka combined to get the first five shot attempts for the Thunder. Here’s a suggestion: you want to get on the board and get the fans off their feet, get the ball to Westbrook or Kevin Durant early.
- A 20-4 run by the Thunder turned a 19-17 deficit into a 37-23 advantage midway through the second quarter. The Nuggets clawed back to within six late in the period and three in the third. But then Durant got going, manufacturing points, and the Thunder went into the fourth up 11. A 10-3 run to start the final period put it out of reach.
- Was it me or did Nene look like he made it a point to attack Perk aggressively from the start tonight. He probably needed to after what Perk did to him last game.
- Serge Ibaka banged up his left hand somehow in the second quarter. I didn’t see how he did it but he clearly was in some pain. He played through it and was rather effective, though his 1-for-7 shooting night would suggest it.
- For the first time, we got a bit of a different look at just how much Westbrook means to this team. When he landed awkwardly following a runner in the lane with 6:59 left in the third quarter, a cloud of silence covered the arena. Suddenly, I felt like I could read everyone’s mind. There were a bunch of variations of, “Oh no! There goes our playoff run.” It was a strange sight seeing as how Westbrook has been the most durable Thunder player the last three seasons, having not missed a single game.
- Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Westbrook got back up and walked it off. And all was right when he darted in for a finger roll on the Thunder’s very next possession.
- It took almost three full seasons — or five if you count the Hornets’ days in town — but we finally had our first girl-on-girl action on the old Kiss Cam. It came during a second-quarter timeout and it was clearly a gaffe by the game-night crew. And of course I missed it! Makes me feel like five years of covering the league has been pretty pointless. It’ll probably take at least that long for it to happen again.
- Nate Robinson got some burn tonight…and checked into the game to a standing ovation!!! What’s up with that??? It definitely caught me by surprise. I’ve been the driver of the Nate Robinson bus, but I had no idea the Thunder faithful wanted to see him get minutes that bad. Nice gesture by the home fans, though.
- I asked Westbrook tonight if he wanted a cold one…I got nothing.
- Gotta say, the Thunder Girls halftime routine with the Rain Drops was pretty cool. Nice choreography and extremely well done. I know it must have taken two months to get that routine down.
- With Dallas winning tonight, the Thunder still is one game behind the Mavs for the third seed. Anything can happen, but I really think these two teams are going to match up in the first round.
- Up next is a two-game road trip against the Lakers and Kings. The season finale is then comes Wednesday against Milwaukee. I can’t believe we’re already putting a bow on this season.
- Lastly, if you’re in the Tulsa area, go support your 66ers. They swept Texas tonight to move on to the second round of the playoffs, where they’ll face the winner of the Iowa Energy-Utah Flash series. Aldrich had a monster performance in the close-out game, scoring 17 points with 18 rebounds and four blocked shots.
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