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 4 - Denver 104, Oklahoma City 101 – Thunder lead series, 3-1

 

The Carmelo Anthony-less Denver Nuggets will finish with more playoff wins than the Carmelo Anthony-led New York Knicks. Yes, that might be small consolation in the Rocky Mountains, but at least this reconstituted team can say that it claimed a game against an opponent which now looks like the second-best team in the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

Denver stayed its own playoff extinction with a gritty Game 4 victory over Oklahoma City at the Pepsi Center in the Mile High City. Five Nuggets scored in double figures and the Denver committed just eight turnovers all evening long. The Nuggets built a 96-87 lead after a Danilo Gallinari 3-pointer with 3:04 remaining in the contest. Denver pushed its advantage to 10 with a Nene free throw at the 2:32 mark, and many people in the stands felt that the Thunder were spent.

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However, Oklahoma City made one final push while the Nuggets, lacking a take-charge scorer like Anthony, produced multiple brain-dead possessions and hoisted long, contested jumpers without any ball movement whatsoever. Denver has a bunch of headcases on its team (the kinds coach George Karl gravitates to), and this reality was never more apparent in the final few minutes of regulation. Nobody in a white home jersey was able to stabilize the Nuggets’ halfcourt offense. Meanwhile, the Thunder found themselves and made one last run at a possible sweep. Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant all scored during an 84-second span as the visitors from Oklahoma cut the Denver lead to just 98-96. The Nuggets’ Raymond Felton missed a jumper on the ensuing possession and Oklahoma City had a chance to tie or take the lead with the clock running under fifty seconds to play.

 

 

One would think the league’s leading scorer, Mr. Durant, would have taken the contest’s most fateful shot. Not On Monday night. On three occasions during the final 30 seconds, Westbrook was unsuccessful on three-point attempts that would have either tied the score or given the Thunder the lead. Westbrook’s shoot-first attitude played a part in denying the Thunder the chance to end the series in four games and earn Oklahoma City some added rest for the second round. The usually solid point guard was 12-of-30 from the field, scoring 30 points that felt hollow at the end of this Game 4 loss. Durant was much more efficient, scoring one more point (31) on 12 fewer shot attempts.

It was a back-and-forth game for much of the night. The Nuggets got a career high from Ty Lawson, who scored 27 points. Gallinari was a clutch performer in the final frame and J.R. Smith had 15 points off the bench. Denver didn’t shoot well, hitting only 38 percent from the field while missing 13 free throw attempts. Luckily for the Nuggets, they were finally able to survive a late Oklahoma City rally – and their own lack of intelligence - to score their first victory over the Thunder in six chances this season.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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