“We didn't have a good offensive game, we didn't have a good defensive game and we didn't have a good energy game,” Karl said. “They seemed to be the hungrier team from the very beginning. Their studs got into the game at a high level very early and scored a lot of points.
Russell Westbrook was so magnificent in the early moments that his 16 points were just two shy of the entire Nuggets outfit to that point. Westbrook made six of eight shots from the field in the opening period and all four of his foul shots. Kevin Durant added eight points on 3-for-4 shooting in the frame. The All-Star duo combined for 24 of the Thunder's first 26 points.
“We knew these guys were coming off a back-to-back, playing overtime,” Durant said. “So we just wanted to get into them and make them make quick decisions with the ball.”
Since that shocking loss at Washington, the Thunder has now won five straight and seemingly regained the championship focus Karl spoke of. Over the past five games, the Thunder has won by an average margin of 14.6 points. Four of the victories were by at least 12. The closest contest was a four-point win at Portland.
“We're just trying to play up to our level,” Durant said. “We have a level that we want to reach every single game … And guys are buying in. If you have a team full of guys that buy in then anything can happen.”