Thunder Protects Its Home Court, Goes Up 2-0 Against Denver
News, notes and observations from Wednesday’s 106-89 Game 2 win over the Denver Nuggets.
- The Thunder did what it had to do. It protected its home court. But to me, that shouldn’t be overlooked tonight. Everyone says the team with home-court advantage is supposed to win on its home floor. But the Thunder has never been here. OKC came in with a pressure unlike anything it’s ever faced, the reality of absolutely having to protect its home court. After this 17-point thrashing, the Thunder took another step forward in its process toward growing as an elite franchise.
- A total team effort tonight. We knew Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook weren’t going to average a combined 72 points in this series. And the role players did a much better job of stepping up tonight. Three players scored in double figures Sunday. Five did so tonight.
- James Harden was the biggest contributor outside of Durant and Westbrook. Harden had 18 points off the bench, 14 of those coming in the first half as the Thunder put the game away. Harden worked his way to the foul line and knocked down shots from the perimeter when it was swung his way. Nights like this need to be more common for Harden. He simply can’t have five-point outings.
- The big men deserve major credit for this one, perhaps the game ball. Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison controlled the glass, defended the paint and chipped in some much-needed offense. Those three alone matched the Nuggets rebounding total at 31 while helping the Thunder out-rebound Denver by 23.
- The Thunder had a 17-5 advantage in offensive boards, which led to a 24-10 victory in second-chance points.
- The defense in this one was just all-around dominant. The Thunder held the Nuggets to 39 percent shooting and hounded Denver’s starting five into a combined 14 of 41 shooting. You could argue that the opening quarter tonight was the Thunder’s best of the season. The Nuggets’ 15 first-quarter points beat the Thunder’s regular season opponent low for the opening quarter by one point. With a minute left in the period, the Nuggets were stuck on 10 points. It was a complete reversal of what we saw Sunday.
- Perk credited the defensive turnaround to an attitude adjustment more than an Xs and Os adjustment.
- After making their first seven shots in Game 1, the Nuggets missed their first six tonight. Denver didn’t get its first field goal until Ibaka GOALTENDED a fast break layup attempt by Ty Lawson. Oh the irony.
- The Thunder’s pre-game intros begin with Rumble descending from the rafters and unveiling a sign that read ‘Get Loud.’ Very nice touch!!
- It took 1 minute, 35 seconds for Perk to make his presence felt. He did it by delivering a hard foul on Wilson Chandler as he drove to the basket. Perk put him on his butt and was whistled for a flagrant 1.
- Perkins admitted he had a chip on his shoulder after getting taken to the woodshed by Nene in Game 1. “I was disappointed in myself in Game 1 after some of the defensive assignments I messed up personally in my one-on-one matchup with Nene. So I took it upon myself that I was going to guard him a little bit better. What I wanted him to do was take contested 2s outside of the block. I’m living with that.”
- Nene missed his first four shots and finished two of eight from the field. He got to the foul line 18 times but made only 12 for 16 total points. The Thunder only lost Nene in transition once tonight, much better than Sunday.
- A tip of the cap to the crowd tonight for the standing O it gave Perk as he exited upon fouling out with 3:38 left to play. Much deserved.
- A key for the Thunder coming into this series was limiting the Nuggets in transition. After two games, the Nuggets have just 20 fast break points. I’d say that’s pretty excellent against these guys.
- Not sure why, but Denver coach George Karl started the second half with both his point guards, Lawson and Raymond Felton in the lineup. Can’t say that it made a difference.
- Here’s what Collison said about the ball movement tonight, which was outstanding: “This was probably the best we’ve played in terms of guys making the right reads, passing out of double teams and sharing the ball so other guys can make shots. We’re still a work in progress in terms of learning how to play. But if we play like this and share the ball we’ll be so much better off.”
- Eric Maynor was fantastic moving the rock tonight. He might have shot 1-for-6, but his playmaking and execution in the halfcourt was tremendous.
- I thought Westbrook had a much better game than his stat line indicates. He missed 11 of 18 shots and had seven turnovers. But he got his teammates involved and played in control throughout the majority of the game. Only a few times did he take rushed shots or fail to make the right pass. Other than that, a few too many layups lipped out on him, which led to a poor percentage. It felt like he had much more than seven assists, too.
- Both Durant and Westbrook did a great job of breaking down Denver’s defense when double teams came. They routinely found the open man and got an assist or the hockey assist.
- Wes Welker was in the house tonight, sitting almost directly behind me. And to be quite honest, I didn’t even know it was him until someone told me. I was too busy looking at the eye candy he had with him. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
- J.R. Smith was supposed to be an X-factor for the Nuggets coming into this series. So much for that. That guy can’t buy a bucket. Here’s what Karl said about his sharp-shooter: “When he got in the game, that’s when the floodgates opened.” I still think Smith will have one big game in this series.
- Al Harrington was lighting it up tonight. He was the only Nugget with a clue for a stretch. If you’re the Thunder, you can live with one guy going off if everyone else is in check. But his efforts off the bench nearly turned the tide after the Thunder went up 26 in the first half.
- I thought we were on the verge of seeing the old combustible Nuggets for a minute there in that first half. The Nuggets couldn’t get a call, no matter how hard they attacked the rim or hit the deck. The old loose cannon Nuggets would have threw a fit.
- Thabo Sefolosha’s driving layup early is worth mentioning only because it was the prettiest move I think any of us have seen from him since ever.
- Robert Vaden was called up from the Tulsa 66ers today and sat on the bench for the first time. For those who are still wondering, his signing was not intended to add a shooter. He probably won’t get minutes this postseason. Unless, of course, it’s a big-time blowout.
- It’s on to Game 3. We move to Denver. I originally predicted the Thunder to win in 5. I’d like to stick with that prediction. The Nuggets probably will get one on their home court before the Thunder closes it out back inside Oklahoma City Arena. After tonight, it became clear that the Nuggets simply cannot beat the Thunder if OKC is at its best.
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