This Thunder-Nuggets series is going to be fun.
Heck, it already is.
With all the build-up heading into this first-round tilt-a-whirl, you figured there was no way the games could actually live up to the hype. The Thunder lambasted the Nuggets in a pair of extremely physical games. Then, the Nuggets called the Thunder cocky. Oh, the set-up was juicy.
Lucky for us, we got an opening game that was just as succulent.
The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 107-103 on Sunday night in a knock-down, drag-out game. It was gritty. It was gut-wrenching.
It was grand, wasn't it?
“We did whatever it took for us to win that game,” Thunder superstar Kevin Durant said. “Dove on the floor. Got key rebounds. Got key stops.”
It was that kind of night, and really, it could be that kind of series.
Settle in, Thunder fans. This could take awhile.
The Nuggets, you see, played just as hard as the Thunder. They dove on the floor. They got key rebounds. They got key stops.
Heck, when the Thunder took an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, you figured the Nuggets might get blown out. Durant was hitting everything he threw toward the basket, Russell Westbrook was doing his darnedest to match his tag-team partner shot for shot, and the Thunder defense was keeping the Nuggets from getting almost anything.
During one five-minute stretch, the Nuggets managed only four points and had zero offensive rebounds.
That's some stellar defense, folks.
But just like that, the Nuggets scored nine unanswered points and took a one-point lead.
“It was a heck of a basketball game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought both teams played as hard as they could possibly play.”
No doubt about that. We've seen the intensity rising these past couple weeks, but Sunday night was off the charts.
Nene stared down Kendrick Perkins after an early dunk, then Perkins looked like he might break one of the referees in half after he took a Nene elbow but got no whistle.
Kenyon Martin bearhugged Durant in an effort to keep him from getting around a screen.
Serge Ibaka returned the favor, keeping Martin from getting near the goal on a late free throw.
“We knew this was going to be a tough series,” Brooks said. “Denver's a physical team. They play hard, and they play good basketball.”
But the Thunder plays good ball, too.
No reason to think that will change come Wednesday when these two square off again.
This is going to be a dogfight until the end. When the end might come is anyone's guess.
Nuggets coach George Karl thinks it's going to be a long series.
“I told the team it's just the beginning, the beginning of the process,” he said. “They get the win, but I think we get to see that we did some things pretty well. It's how we build on that and learn from that.”
Learn over seven games, he said.
“At least I hope seven times,” he said.
Man, wouldn't that be fun? A seven-game series between these two teams.
Sign me up.
Listen, last year's playoffs were grand fun. But as much as everyone loved the Lakers series, it was never going to produce a rivalry.
This series just might.
It's already off to one heck of a start. Bring on Game 2.