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Berry Tramel: Numbers say this series belongs to Thunder

by Berry Tramel Published: April 20, 2011

Bad news for the Nuggets. Russell Westbrook swished a 3-pointer 44 seconds into the game. Then Kevin Durant did the same half a minute later.

Worse news for the Nuggets. Westbrook and Durant didn't stay hot. Didn't need to.

The Thunder routed Denver 106-89 Wednesday night in Game 2, an impressive display of playoff basketball that shouted for two questions to be answered.

Is this notion, floated by Nugget coach George Karl, that while the Thunder has the stars, Denver has the team, wetter than a Wilson Chandler jumper?

Is this series over?

Your answers are yes to the former and maybe, probably, almost surely, 94 percent certainty to the latter.

That's the rate at which NBA teams advance after going up two games to none in a playoff series.

The Thunder has the better team, the better matchup, the better health. Exactly how can it lose this series?

“Good question,” Durant said while studiously thinking about it. “If we come out sluggish, if we come out complacent, thinking those guys are going to lay down, it'll be tough to win.”

OK. Exactly when has the Thunder done that in the last two years?

“I don't worry about that,” Durant admitted. “We go out and play hard.”

In the last 16 days, the Thunder has beaten the Nuggets four times, twice in meaningful regular-season games, twice in the playoffs. The scores have been 101-94, 104-89, 107-103, 106-89. In those four games, the Thunder has trailed 43:19 of the 192 minutes played, most of it in that tight Game 1.

And Denver's supposed strength, depth, has been exposed. Karl played his starters an average of 32:20 per man Wednesday night. Thunder coach Scotty Brooks, who didn't clear his bench in the final minutes, played his starters an average of 28:42.

The naked truth: The Thunder has more good players than do the Nuggets. Maybe it gets pretty even if or when Denver's Arron Afflalo returns from injury, but can we scrap this idea that Nick Collison, James Harden, Eric Maynor, Nazr Mohammed and Daequan Cook are somehow inferior to the Nugget reserves?

Karl has two vaunted role players he is at times loath to play, J.R. Smith and the Birdman.

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by Berry Tramel
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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