Sure enough, when the Thunder started missing shots, the score suddenly flipped. Oklahoma City missed nine of its first 11 field-goal attempts to start the third and watched Denver race to a 15-4 run that built an 80-70 lead.
Denver extended that margin to as many as 13 while the Thunder made just six of 20 shots in the quarter. After combining to make 13 of 23 shots in the first two periods, Durant and Westbrook went 3-for-11 in the third.
The offense that once sizzled had fizzled. Rather than running set plays to get quality shots, the Thunder started scrambling, settling for wild slashes into the lane for, if players were lucky, kick-outs to shooters. Most possessions had little to no ball movement and, ultimately, ended in missed shots.
“I think we got away from making the extra pass in the second half,” said Thabo Sefolosha, “and that was the difference between the first and second half.”
In spite of all its shortcomings, the Thunder managed to cut the deficit to seven entering the final period and mounted a mini rally once there, closing the gap to five with 4:08 to play. Denver, however, didn’t have any trouble scoring down the stretch and outscored the Thunder 12-7 the rest of the way to hold on for the win.
Denver finished with 72 points in the paint and had six players scored in double figures, led by Ty Lawson’s 25 points.
“It’s easy to fall into that trap,” said Durant of Denver’s fast-paced approach. “That’s what they do. They get up and down the court. Our game is a little different. We want to run, but we want to run off of our defense. Those guys run off makes, misses of course and turnovers. But they continually run. They pass the ball well and they score a lot in the paint. So we fell into the trap and we couldn’t play that game with them.”