Russell Westbrook wanted the Denver Nuggets to know they couldn't hang with the Thunder.
Well, is it too early to declare that mission accomplished?
If so, the Thunder certainly moved another step in the right direction, dropkicking Denver on Friday for the second time in four nights, this time with a 104-89 win inside Oklahoma City Arena.
With the victory, the Thunder won the season series 3-1, but more importantly finished 2-0 against the new-look Nuggets, the same squad that is all but locked into a first-round playoff series with the Thunder.
The Thunder won both games this week in similar fashion, pulling away late and proving it was the more powerful team.
“Whether it's them, Portland or Dallas, whoever it is you want to be able to make a point to let them know that when the playoffs come you have a slight advantage,” said Westbrook, who scored 17 points with eight assists and six steals.
There is now no doubt the Thunder has the upper hand. Its collection of talent clearly trumps Denver's, and the Thunder's confidence now should be sky-high with the knowledge that it can beat the Nuggets at home and on the road.
“If we face them we'll see what happens,” Westbrook said. “But I think we're feeling good about ourselves.”
The Thunder still trails Dallas by just a game for third place after the Mavs secured a home win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. But all signs point to Thunder-Nuggets.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's worth noting that the Nuggets played with a short stack in both losses. Forward Chris Andersen (ankle) and swingman Arron Afflalo (strained hamstring) didn't play Tuesday at Denver or Friday. Center Timofey Mozgov (sprained knee and ankle) was injured in the first half Tuesday and did not finish the game. All three could have a big impact on Denver's defense in a potential playoff series.
“They're going to be a different team come playoff time and be more focused and more locked in,” said Kevin Durant. “I'm sure they're going to switch a lot of things up after seeing us this last week. If we do face them it should be fun.
Friday's box score