In this week's Sports Illustrated poll, 166 NBA players were asked, “Who do you want shooting with the game on the line?”
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant led the way with 74 percent, followed by the Thunder's Kevin Durant (8 percent), Miami guard Dwyane Wade (3 percent) and then Boston guard Ray Allen and Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki with 2 percent each.
SI also posed the question to its Facebook fans and the top vote-getters were Bryant (41 percent), Chicago point guard Derrick Rose (23 percent) and Durant (9 percent).
One hour before Game 1 tipped off, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl tried to explain the importance of having playoff experience.
“It's not about having played in the playoffs, it's about knowing how to win in the playoffs,” Karl said.
What do players have trouble understanding?
“How hard it is to win the second game, and how it multiplies,” Karl said. “I don't know how to tell you. The first win is a lot easier than the third and fourth win — a lot easier. And if you think it's going to get easier, it never gets easier. It always gets harder.”
While Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 72 points for the Thunder in Game 1, eight Nuggets scored eight or more points.
“I've got a feeling when, and if, we win four games, it's going to be by committee,” Karl said. “One guy might get two games. Someone else might get Game 3. Game 4 is probably going to be someone else.”
Much has been written about the Nuggets losing their go-guy with the trade of Carmelo Anthony to New York. Karl insists he would rather have several go-to options rather than just one.
“I don't think it's going to be one matchup,” Karl said. “Scotty (Brooks) is too smart. If one guy gets into a rhythm, he knows he can do some things to force me to go someplace else. The great thing is I have a lot of places to go, and that's exciting.”
POINTS IN PAINT
Though fast-break points were a 9-9 draw in Game 1, the Nuggets dominated the paint and outscored the Thunder 46-28.
“The No. 1 thing is we have to get back in transition,” Brooks said. “This team is fast. They have multiple players who can handle the ball and attack the basket. Nene is as good of a running big that there is in basketball. We have to get back. They were scoring a bunch of points in the first half in the paint.
“That's what they do. They led the league in scoring not just by shooting jump shots. They get to the free-throw line. We have to cut off those points in the paint. That's always been our game plan.”
Denver center Nene had 22 points that came on 9-for-11 shooting in Game 1.
“Our pick-and-roll coverage has to be better,” Thunder reserve power forward Nick Collison said. “He got a lot of drop-offs because we didn't guard the ball at the point of the ball very well, and in transition, too. I think he had three or four in transition, where we just didn't get him picked up and didn't get him covered.”
Karl when asked if Seattle's history should be recognized in Oklahoma City: “That's a sensitive bag of worms right there, baby.”