Yes, the Nuggets' nail-biting 100-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night was disappointing. But it seems inappropriate to complain too much. After all, it was a hugely entertaining game almost singlehandedly won by a great player -- Kevin Durant -- whose performance will become a foundation of his legend.
The Nuggets certainly didn't play as if they knew they had no shot of overcoming a 3-1 playoffs deficit against such a gifted squad. They had energy aplenty from the get-go, with Ty Lawson maintaining a speedy pace (and swishing the occasional outside bomb) and everyone from Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari to Kenyon Martin hitting timely shots.
Moreover, the defense was impressive, particularly against Russell Westbrook, who was three for fifteen from the field and looked ready to come unglued on numerous occasions.
True, Gallo and Nenê missed way too many would-be jams -- but their inability to finish had plenty to do with Serge Ibaka, who made up for his measly one point with an unbelievable nine blocks and numerous near-swats that changed shots and attitudes about the likelihood of scoring from close range.
As for the disparity in fouls, which saw the Thunder go to the free-throw line a shocking 21 times more often than did the Nugs, it was entirely unjustified. But Denver still had a damn fine chance to win the game anyhow until Durant, who was quiet during the third quarter and the first part of the fourth, figuratively burst into flame, making anything and everything that left his hand -- including the late jumper that forced Afflalo into a desperation three at the buzzer that came close but wouldn't fall.
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Granted, Wilson Chandler's defense on Durant's final fling was embarrassing. But honestly, even if he'd been draped all over him, KD , who finished with 41 points, would have drained it. He had one of those nights when the adjective "Jordanesque" seems appropriate, not hyperbolic.
Simply put, the Thunder are a better team than the Nuggets -- and when he's on, as he was last night, Durant is the best player in the world. With that in mind, I'll be rooting for the Thunder (and the Chicago Bulls) for the remainder of the playoffs. It's time for the guard to change in the NBA, and Durant's an excellent candidate to lead the charge.
And the Nuggets? They could have beaten any of the three seeds higher than OKC in the West -- the Spurs, the Mavericks and the Lakers. But the Thunder? Not this year.
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