Second-chance points in Game 4 wound up giving the Denver Nuggets a second chance at life.
The Nuggets survived opening-round elimination with a 104-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night inside the Pepsi Center.
Surrendering second-chance points have been known to sting, but the Nuggets threw daggers at the Thunder throughout the entire second half.
The key stretch was an 11-0 run that began late in the third quarter.
Denver reserve guard J.R. Smith nailed a 3-pointer with 35.4 seconds left in the period after an offensive rebound by Chris Andersen. The bucket gave the Nuggets a 71-69 lead and they would never trail again.
Denver's next points came on another second-chance 3, this one from Raymond Felton as the 24-second shot clock expired on the opening possession of the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets had 13 second-chance points and nine offensive rebounds in the second half. They finished with 15 second-chance points and 13 offensive rebounds for the game, both of which were series highs.
“We definitely talked about that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Tuesday. “We had done a good job of taking their offensive rebounding out of the games. When those offensive rebounds end up as 3s, they hurt. They demoralize you because you played defense good enough that they missed that (first) shot.
“Those are tough possessions to get back and now you have to really lock in and get a good shot or score just to compensate for that lack of finishing up that (previous) possession.”
Entering Game 4, the Thunder owned a 46-28 advantage in second-chance points and a 35-20 lead in offensive rebounds.
Quick scoring bursts and living at the free-throw line is how Denver frequently has won this season.
In the second half, the Nuggets shot 53.8 percent (7 for 13) from 3-point range and just 27.6 percent (8 for 29) inside the arc. They also got 22 points from the free-throw line on 30 attempts. “We're fouling too much,” Brooks admitted.
Also key to Denver snapping a five-game losing streak against the Thunder in the last 21 days was Nuggets coach George Karl stressing that point guard Ty Lawson to go into attack mode.
“He (Karl) says that when I attack, it fuels it fuels the rest of the team,” Lawson said. “It gets everyone involved and that is what I wanted to do in the second half. That is my nature to get everyone else the ball and then to get myself the ball, because I have the ball all the time so it's easy for me. That is what I tried to do the first couple of games and coach was like, ‘You know you need to attack early. We play a lot better when you do that.' So that is what I started doing.”
Lawson finished with 27 points, three assists and three rebounds. His ability to penetrate and kick the ball to open teammates in clutch situations provided multiple sparks.
“He had a special game,” Karl said of Lawson. “We have to get Ty and Raymond (Felton) as many minutes a game attacking the rim and accept that (OKC) will probably block some shots, accept that their interior defense is going to make some plays. It is also who we are and Ty was pretty special in that area.”
Smith, who potentially was playing his last game in a Nuggets uniform, came off the bench to score 15 points and shoot 3 for 5 from 3-point range.
“For us to be successful, Ty has to play like that all the time,” Smith said. “He has to be aggressive. He has to attack. He wants to get us in the game, but at the same time if your shot is there, or if you got the lane, you have to take it.”