The Nuggets game was the blowout I’d expected, seeing as they really had nothing to play for anyway. One more loss was going to render their elimination from the playoffs mathematically official, and they had way too many injuries to overcome a Thunder team that has been learning to overcome injuries on the fly themselves since All-Star Weekend. Danilo Gallinari was out with a torn ACL in his left knee, JaVale McGee was out with a left tibia stress fracture, Wilson Chandler was out with a strained left groin, JJ Hickson was out with a torn ACL in his right knee, and former Thunder guard Nate Robinson was out with a sprained ACL in his left knee. On top of all of that, recent trade-deadline acquisition Jan Vesley wound up sitting out due to a left rib cage contusion (bruised ribs).
The Nuggets’ largest lead was 13-10 at the 6:58 mark of the first quarter. The Thunder would then use almost the rest of the 1st to set up a 31-9 run to create serious breathing room at 41-22. The Nuggets ended the 1st with a 2-pointer with 2/10ths of a second left. This became a 12-0 run that pulled the Nuggets within 7 (41-34). The Thunder then used a 14-4 run to push the lead back to 17 (55-38). with 6:25 until halftime. The Thunder would claim a 117-96 victory that lifted them to 52-18, while dropping the Nuggets to 32-39, effectively eliminating them from the playoff race. The win also allows the Thunder to claim a 3-1 season-series victory.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 27 points, while Serge Ibaka was good for 15 points. Reggie Jackson posted his second career double-double starting in place of the resting Russell Westbrook (16 points, 11 assists), and rookie big man Steven Adams scored 10 points starting in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins. Caron Butler provided fire from the Thunder bench with his 23 points, and bench big man Nick Collison was good for 10 points of his own.
All of the Nuggets’ starting five scored double figures, led by Ty Lawson’s 25 points. Quincy Miller and Timofey Mosgov scored 12 points apiece, Randy Foye dropped 11, and Kenneth Faried’s 11 points provided a double-double performance when coupled with his 11 rebounds.
The Mavericks’ victory on Tuesday Night allowed them to claim a 2-1 season-series victory over the Thunder, which makes them the only team to do so this season. Others have split their season series with the Thunder, but the Mavs have been the only team to claim their’s outright. This victory also allowed them to claim a half-game lead over the Suns in the Western Conference, so the Thunder might be okay with not getting the #1 seed if the Mavericks end up with the 8th and final playoff spot.
It was a good game all around. The largest Thunder lead was 9, while the largest Maverick lead was 10. There were 10 ties and 16 lead changes as well. The Mavs just broke the Thunder in the overtime period, outscoring them 17-8 to win 128-119. This win put the Mavs at 43-29 at the time, while dropping the Thunder to their current 52-19 record. Although last night’s loss to the Clippers puts the currently 43-30 Mavs a half-game behind the Suns for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Thunder are now a full 3 games behind the red-hot Spurs, who have won their last 15 consecutive games. The Thunder and the Spurs both have 11 games remaining on their schedule, and with the Mavs 10 games behind the Thunder at the #9 spot, this means that both the Thunder and Spurs have their playoff tickets punched. It’s simply about seeding at this point.
Durant once again led all scorers with 43 points. This marks the 36th straight 25+-point performance, putting him 4 behind the great Michael Jordan for largest such streak. Westbrook dropped 23 points in limited action, while Ibaka added 10. Jackson, Butler, and Derek Fisher even combined for 34 points off of the Thunder bench (Fisher: 13, Jackson:11, Butler:10).
Dirk Nowitzki was “The Man” in this game however. 32 points and 10 rebounds saw to that. Jose Calderon dropped 22 points, including the 3 that forced OT. Monta Ellis posted 17 points, Shawn Marion dropped 11, and Dalembert added 10. Vince Carter and Jae Crowder even combined for 26 points off of the Mavs bench (Carter: 16, Crowder: 10).
The Thunder begin the first of a three-game home stand tonight, as they welcome the Kings. The Thunder are currently 2-0 in the season series, as they claimed a 97-95 victory on Dec. 3rd, and a 108-93 victory on Jan. 19th. The Kings are already mathematically out of the playoffs, and have been for some time now. All they can hope to do is play spoiler and split their season series at this point. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.