For a while Friday, it was difficult to tell whether these teams were prepping for the playoffs or just playing out the string. The score was tied at 17-all after the opening period. The Thunder finally provided some semblance of professional basketball when it peeled off a 20-4 run in the second quarter that flipped a 19-17 deficit into a 37-23 lead. Daequan Cook sparked the rally with back-to-back 3-pointers off feeds from Eric Maynor and James Harden.
“I thought our bench was good throughout the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “They came in in the first half and really did a good job of extending the lead.”
The starters gave it back, allowing the Nuggets to close the half on a 13-4 run to pull within six at the break.
With Durant struggling, having missed 10 of 14 shots two minutes into the third, the Nuggets clawed back to within three. But Durant began to manufacture points by working the rip move and getting to the foul line twice in the quarter on that signature move, as well as a series of other stronger attacks on the basket. Durant finished with 28 points on nine of 21 shooting but again showed the Nuggets don't have much resistance for his size and length. Denver is hoping Afflalo is the answer.
Oklahoma City put the game out of reach with a 10-3 run to start the final period, bumping an 11-point lead to 18 with 8:35 remaining. The Nuggets never got closer than nine.
But even after this week's two authoritative victories, Brooks is hellbent on remaining focused on the final three games. The playoffs, and more specifically the Nuggets, Brooks said, are not the focus just yet.
Maybe he just doesn't want to supply any bulletin-board material for what is already an intense and physical matchup.
“We want to keep worrying about how we can improve our team,” Brooks said. “I always believe that once the playoffs start you have to do a lot of good things to win…Both teams start off zero-zero, no matter how many games you beat them in the regular season.”
Friday's box score