Quantcast 2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Round One - Denver vs Oklahoma City

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference First Round

Western Conference First Round Game 2 - Oklahoma City 106, Denver 89 – Thunder lead series, 2-0

 

If this is the Oklahoma City team that shows up for the rest of the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs – provided they even manage to get by the Memphis Grizzlies – are in for a world of hurt, and the Los Angeles Lakers cannot feel too comfortable. Yes, if this is the kind of Thunder that will be shaken down from the heavens, the rest of the NBA might be forced to submit to the league’s young but hungry lineup.

A statement of supremacy was delivered Wednesday night at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. After a fun and exciting but less than convincing Game 1 victory on Sunday, Oklahoma City tightened up its defense and gained the balanced production that will make the fourth seed an NBA title contender. Displaying the well-rounded form that basketball champions are made of, the Thunder laid waste to a talented group of Denver Nuggets to hold serve in the Western Conference playoffs. As the series shifts to Denver for Games 3 and 4, the Nuggets have to win two games just to stay afloat. Based on the way Oklahoma City played on Wednesday, it’s going to be very hard for Denver to achieve that feat.

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On Sunday in Game 1, Kevin Durant poured in 43 points while Russell Westbrook delivered 29, as the Thunder’s meal-ticket combo carried a disproportionate share of the load. In this Game 2 tilt, Oklahoma City brought everyone into the act, manifesting the vision that General Manager Sam Presti had when he flatly hoodwinked the Boston Celtics (and General Manager Danny Ainge) with his pre-trade deadline deal in February.

It was no secret in the NBA that Oklahoma City needed to be tougher on defense, particularly near the rim, if it wanted to take the proverbial next step toward championship prominence and league-wide relevance. On Wednesday, people in the professional basketball world saw just how good the Thunder could be under their new lineup configuration. Yes, Durant and Westbrook each scored over 20 points, but they gained plenty of help from the complementary players on their roster. Kendrick Perkins, the centerpiece of Presti’s trading frenzy in February, delivered 11 rebounds and an ample supply of low-post defense to announce his presence in the series after a quiet Game 1. Serge Ibaka was also a man in the paint, grabbing 12 rebounds while scoring 12 points to provide ballast to Oklahoma City’s interior defense. James Harden added 18 points from his spot on the wing, and as a result, the Thunder cruised to a 17-point win while never leading by fewer than 10 points throughout the second half. The home team built a 43-17 lead midway through the second quarter, and although Denver did reduce the lead to 10 on a few occasions, the Nuggets never got any closer.

 

 

This, indeed, was the fulfillment of the Oklahoma City blueprint in front of a “blue-out” crowd at the Ford Center. If the Thunder can replicate this, oh, 14 more times, they’ll own the world title. If they can repeat this act 10 more times, they’ll win the West.

What’s scary is that it all seems so realistic at the moment. We’ll see if the Thunder have the discipline to stick with the plan in the days ahead in Denver.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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