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 5 - Oklahoma City 100, Denver 97 – Thunder win series, 4-1

 

Kevin Durant can close. Oh, how he can close. If the NBA’s superstar of the next few years can play like this in the coming weeks – and Russell Westbrook gets the heck out of his way – the Oklahoma City Thunder can go a long way in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

Durant, the two-time reigning scoring leader in the league, put on quite a performance on Wednesday night to secure his Thunder squad’s first trip to the second round since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City. With the visiting Denver Nuggets leading by nine points with just 3:30 left in the contest, Durant took over. With his team trailing 91-82 and shooting under 35 percent from the floor, Durant outscored the Nuggets 14-6 down the stretch, hitting 5 of 6 shots and truly willing his team to victory. On the final eight possessions of the game, Oklahoma City scored a gaudy 18 points. All but one of those points were either scored or assisted by Durant.

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It was a yet another bitter pill for Denver to swallow during an entertaining first round series. The Nuggets also held a lead and failed to close out Game 1. They also came very close to blowing a big lead late in Game 4. This was a hard-fought game throughout the night at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. Dribble penetration from guard Ty Lawson and a solid performance from forward Kenyon Martin had Denver sowing ideas of a return to the Rocky Mountains for Game 6. Even after surrendering their nine point lead, the Nuggets didn’t go quietly. The lead changed hands four times over the last 1:34. Trailing 100-97, Denver guard Arron Afflalo’s three-point try rimmed out as time expired on Denver’s season.

 

 

Five Nuggets scored in double figures, led by Afffalo with 15. Not only was Denver undone by Durant’s heroics, but it engaged in self-sabotage due to its inability to get to the free throw line. Oklahoma City had 42 free throw attempts to Denver’s 21. That’s what kept the Thunder in the game even when the home team, sans Durant, couldn’t hit the side of a barn.

Beyond Durant, forward Serge Ibaka imposed his will at the defensive end for the Thunder. Ibaka blocked nine shots and affected a number of other attempts. The Thunder’s interior combo of Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins cleaned up the glass as well: Oklahoma City outrebounded Denver, 51-38. Westbrook continued to struggle on offense, shooting just 3-of-15 a mere two days after casting up 30 shot attempts in a Game 4 loss. In the end, the analysis of this night begins and ends with the tremendous play of Durant. With a star as bright as he, the sky is the limit for the Thunder.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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