Serge Ibaka steps up for Thunder in Game 3 win over Nuggets

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: April 24, 2011 at 12:17 am •  Published: April 24, 2011
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DENVER — The Oklahoma City Thunder had a checklist.

To win its first ever road playoff game, more than most of those items needed to be marked off in the Mile High City.

Mission accomplished.

The Thunder took a commanding 3-0 series lead over Denver with a convincing 97-94 win in Game 3 on Saturday night inside Pepsi Center.

Now, the series that once was billed as the best first-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs might not even need to return to Oklahoma City. The Thunder can close out the Nuggets with a clean sweep with a win in Game 4 on Monday night.

And if the Thunder plays like it did Saturday night, it might be time to break out the brooms.

Oklahoma City was dominant defensively, holding the Nuggets to 37.2 percent shooting and a 6-for-23 clip from beyond the 3-point line. The Thunder shot just 36.3 percent, making it a classic playoff defensive battle. But the most important thing is the Thunder got another balanced attack.

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 26 points with six assists, Russell Westbrook scored 23 points with nine rebounds and eight assists and Serge Ibaka added 22 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. James Harden chipped in 10 points off the bench.

The Thunder came in with a stated goal of stopping Denver in transition. The Nuggets scored just eight fast-break points. Denver's point guard duo of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton combined for just 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting with only eight assists.

“It's obviously a big for us,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of the win. “When you're in the playoffs, wins aren't easy at home or on the road. The crowd was very animated.”

The Thunder took it to the Nuggets from nearly start to finish.

The importance of getting off too a good start also was stressed in the two days between games 2 and 3, and the Thunder did just that, withstanding a raucous sellout crowd of 19,958 to prove it could stand toe-to-toe with the Nuggets on their home court. Despite getting an emotional lift and some early scoring punch from Arron Afflalo, who missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, the Thunder trailed just 12-10 with 6:38 left in the opening period.

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