Thunder Takes Game 1 Against Denver
News, notes and observations from the Thunder’s 107-103 Game 1 win over the Denver Nuggets.
- I thought it was the Thunder’s biggest advantage going in, and after Game 1 the mismatch is much more significant than anything I ever imagined. Kevin Durant dominated Denver tonight. He had no problem against any of the Nuggets’ numerous defenders. There were times when Durant looked like he was on the playground against the Nuggets, hitting all kinds of jumpers and getting whatever he wanted. Durant’s 41 was a playoff career high and was the type of performance that makes you think this could be a short series.
- I expect the Nuggets to double Durant a lot from here out. Denver absolutely has to. The Nuggets can’t allow Durant and Russell Westbrook to go off. They combined for 72 points on 25 of 45 shooting tonight. Look for Denver to deny Durant a ton in Game 2 or send the double immediately on his catches.
- Westbrook was great tonight, too. His first half offense and decision-making kept the Thunder in it. His steal and dunk with 4.9 seconds remaining in the second quarter pumped life into the home team. That play capped a 10-2 run that pulled OKC within one at the break. Before that, the Thunder played a terrible first half of defense.
- The way Westbrook came out calm and in control was impressive. It was a good sign that he’s not going to try to do too much this series or turn these games into a personal challenge with Denver’s point guards.
- As I wrote for Monday’s paper, though, Westbrook did have about a six-minute stretch where the screws seemed loose. During that time, Westbrook inexplicably went 2-for-6 with two turnovers. The Nuggets capitalized by going on a 9-0 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a 99-98 lead.
- What does it say about Westbrook, though, that after all that he bounced back and buried a big-time jumper with 22 seconds left to give the Thunder a three-point lead? The most impressive thing about the shot was that it came on a broken play. The first option was clearly for Durant. But with Westbrook unable to get the ball to KD, and the clock ticking, Westbrook did his own thing. It ended up being a huge shot.
- Can’t say that the Thunder’s fourth-quarter offense was all that impressive in this one. And after 82 games, it shouldn’t have come as a shock. Go back and watch this one over and compare the Thunder’s offense to the Nuggets. When Denver made its 9-0 run, there was cutting, screening and ball movement. At the other end, the Thunder was standing around and trying to force it to one of their go-to guys. That little stretch almost cost the Thunder this game.
- Durant scored or assisted on 22 of the Thunder’s 25 points during a stretch from midway through the third to midway through the fourth. While you’re re-watching this one, do yourselves a favor and enjoy those 12 minutes.
- Not exactly the playoff debut we expected from Kendrick Perkins. Nene absolutely abused him tonight, leading the Nuggets with a team-high 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting. About half of that actually came against Nazr Mohammedbecause Perk had to take a seat due to ineffectiveness. Nene clearly took this first game as a personal challenge. And give him credit for setting the tone.
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