Tougher defenses come to the forefront during the NBA postseason, which is why offensive numbers slip a bit for every team. How much they slip is the key to success.
The Denver Nuggets are shooting far worse and scoring considerably less than they did during in the regular season, yet contrary to what reserve guard J.R. Smith said last Thursday, his team still has a pulse.
The Nuggets avoided elimination Monday night by winning 104-101 in Game 4 at the Pepsi Center and will attempt to remain alive in Game 5 on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena.
During the regular season, the Nuggets led the league in scoring (107.5), were third in field-goal percentage (.476), third in 3-point percentage (.388), but 16th in free-throw percentage (.765).
Here are the Nugget's numbers so far against the Thunder — scoring (97.5), field-goal percentage (.414), 3-point percentage (.360) and free-throw percentage (.692).
The Thunder's offensive numbers also have slipped, but not nearly as significantly. OKC actually has a better 3-point shooting percentage in the series (.347 to .360).
On multiple occasions in the first three games, the Denver Nuggets shared multiple explanations as to why they lost and how each game should have turned out differently.
On Tuesday afternoon, Thunder coach Scott Brooks was matter-of-fact about the Game 4 loss.
“I don't think that was one of our better games,” Brooks said, “but like I told our guys, ‘We got beat … and you move on.'
“Give our guys credit. They did not give up. I thought they had two or three times in the game where they could have said, ‘You know what, this is not our night. Let's move on to the next game,' but they did not. In every playoff game, you want to give yourself a chance to win. We've done that four times this series and we've won three of them, so I'm happy.”
Crowds inside the Pepsi Center seemed to spend more time booing the Thunder than they did cheering for the home team. The fans showed no favoritism by booing every OKC player.
Shortly after Game 4, the public address announcer implored Denver fans to purchase tickets to Game 6, even though there might not be one.
“The thing I learned about our team is that we compete,” Brooks said. “We competed against a crowd that showed a lot of hatred toward us. It's tough to win a road game and it's really tough to win two games on one road trip.
“The intensity level, you can feel it on both sides. The crowd was into the game.”
WELCOME, SIR CHARLES
Someday, perhaps TNT analyst Charles Barkley actually will attend a Thunder game instead of promising to do so.
“We would love to have Charles here,” said Brooks, who was teammates with Barkley while with the Philadelphia 76ers (1988-90). “Charles is a good friend of mine. It would be great if we could get him out here.”