“It wasn’t a good enough effort for us, particularly our second unit,” Thunder reserve forward Nick Collison said. “We really struggled at the end of the first and into the second and that’s really when the tide turned.”
During its dry spell, OKC went 0 for 8 from the floor and 0 for 2 at the free-throw line (two Serge Ibaka misses).
Meanwhile, Denver went 6 for 7 from the field, including two 3-pointers from reserve forward Wilson Chandler. Another dagger for OKC was an opposing player experiencing a career night, which has happened frequently all season.
In a 121-118 overtime loss to Denver here on Jan. 20, guard Corey Brewer erupted for what was then a season-high 26 points off the bench to spark the victory.
On Friday night, Chandler tied a career-high with 35 points off the bench, including a go-ahead layup with 22.4 seconds left.
“Wilson Chandler was making some tough shots over hands, some deep 3s, and Ty hit the tough game-winner,” Durant said. “We fought. We always fight. We made it a game, tied the game up in the end and made them shoot the shot we wanted them to shoot, contested over one of our best defenders. You have to tip your hat. He (Lawson) made it.”
Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin said of Chandler: “Good player, and good players feel it some nights.” Meanwhile, Martin missed his first four shots from the floor before finally hitting a 3-pointer with 8:14 left for his only points in 24-plus minutes of playing time.
“I put a lot of the blame on myself, if you want to put that out there,” Martin said of the second unit’s struggles. “It was just a really bad outing for me. I’m supposed to be a leader on that second group and I played like a rookie tonight. I’m going to put that on my plate for the second unit.”
The Thunder led by 11 after the first four minutes of the game and then found itself trailing by 12 with 3½ minutes left before halftime.
OKC went 2 for 16 (.125) to start the second quarter and didn’t get score in double-digits for the period until the 2:12 mark.
It took Westbrook swishing a 30-footer at the buzzer for the Thunder to shoot 31.6 percent (6 for 19) from the field in the second quarter and score 18 points for the period.
Scrambling back from a nine-point deficit at intermission, OKC on three occasions in the third quarter pulled to within one basket of forging a tie, only to surrender consecutive baskets to the Nuggets.
OKC finally tied the game at 91 with 5:40 remaining, only to watch Chandler drain a 3-pointer from the corner and Andre Miller score on a layup to pull back in front 96-91 with 5:10 left.