By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Denver held off a late Oklahoma City rally, beating the Thunder 105-103 on Friday night. Here’s some rapid reaction:
George Karl unleashed his bench full of streaky thoroughbreds late in the first quarter and the game was forever changed. The unit, led by red-hot Wilson Chandler and high-flying 7-footer JaVale McGee, immediately sparked a 16-0 run and vaulted Denver from an early hole into a nine-point halftime lead. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would make a valiant comeback effort, even taking the lead in the final minutes, but Denver’s game-changing bench proved to be the definitive difference.
It was over when…
…Ty Lawson finally put his stamp on the game. Tied at 103 in the final seconds, Lawson, who struggled through a 5-of-14 shooting night, dribbled out the clock and fired an on-target 18-footer. Splash with 0.2 seconds left. Ballgame and then some Bernie (the dance):
Star of the game – Wilson Chandler
Chandler was the ringleader of this incredible effort from Denver’s second unit. The talented 6-foot-8 swingman came in hot (scoring 11 points during an abbreviated first quarter stint) and then he sustained it (matching a career-high with 35 points). Chandler finished 13-of-19 from the field and a ridiculous 6-of-7 from behind the arc. He’s a potential game-changer off the bench and that was never more evident than tonight.
Story of the night – Bench discrepancy
As good as the Nuggets’ second unit was, OKC’s may have been equally as bad. Four players came off the Thunder bench (Nick Collison, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher and Kevin Martin). They combined to go 4/12 shooting for 11 points, six turnovers and a plus/minus of -43 in 67 minutes. Kevin Martin was particularly bad, going 1/5 for three points, four turnovers and a plus/minus of -12. A rare off night for OKC’s normally steady sparkplug. And this, really, says it all on this night:
Maybe it’s Rocky. Maybe it’s the thin air. Maybe it’s all a coincidence. But Russell Westbrook has absolutely torched the Nuggets this season, scoring 32 or more points in all three games. On this night, Westbrook was the best player on the court (Wilson Chandler included), going 12/23 shooting for 38 points, six rebounds, five assists two steals and countless crowd staredowns, consistently rescuing the Thunder from the holes created by its struggling bench.
Stats of note
-Kevin Durant hit double-digit rebounds for the fourth time in five games. He only did it three times in the 28 games prior to that.
-OKC is 2-6 in its past eight road games.
-The Thunder is 3-8 in Denver (playoffs included) since moving to OKC.
Durant goes Dr. J
Derek Fisher since joining the Thunder: 26 minutes, 0/6 shooting and one epic airball
Another tough road test for the suddenly road weary Thunder on Sunday. OKC faces the red-hot Clippers, who have won eight of nine. Tip is at 2:30 on ABC.