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Jenni Carlson: Thunder's next game in Oklahoma City won't be against Denver

by Jenni Carlson Modified: April 24, 2011 at 12:46 am •  Published: April 24, 2011

DENVER — Get ready for the second round, Thunder fans.

This first-round tilt-a-whirl with the Nuggets ain't coming back to Oklahoma City.

The Thunder won a 97-94 slugfest Saturday night, taking an even more commanding lead in this series and leaving no doubt that it is on its way to a sweep.

The Nuggets are fried.

That's because the Thunder took a 3-0 lead in this series, scored its first road playoff victory since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City, but wasn't even close to being perfect.

Far from it.

“I thought we made some plays down the stretch to get that lead,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “and I thought we made some plays down the stretch to almost give up that lead.”

The Thunder's warts in this game were many.

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 26 points, but he had one of his poorest shooting nights in weeks. He was only 7 of 22.

The rest of the team's shooting went the way of Durant. The Thunder made only 36.2 percent of their field-goal attempts.

Poor shooting wasn't the only problem for the Thunder big men. They fouled. And fouled. And fouled. Three of the big men had two fouls each before the end of the first quarter.

You began to wonder if having Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich inactive might come back to haunt the Thunder.

Who would've thought that could ever happen?

The Thunder wasn't all bad, of course. You don't win a road playoff game without some serious contributions. Serge Ibaka played inspired basketball, scoring 22 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. The Thunder defense was stout, holding the Nuggets to 37.2 percent shooting.

No better defense was played than on the game's final play.

The Nuggets had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, but James Harden stuck on J.R. Smith like a wetsuit. When the Nuggets sharpshooter finally got the ball and got up a shot, Harden played close-up-but-straight-up defense.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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