The Thunder looked dead in the water after three quarters of basketball tonight in Oklahoma City, playing uninspired and trailing the Denver Nuggets by 13 heading into the final frame. Right on cue, OKC charged out to a 20-5 run to open the fourth, taking a 99-97 lead with 6:25 to go.
The teams exchanged buckets and the lead from that point forward, with the game being knotted up 110-110 with 49 seconds remaining. After Steven Adams split a pair of free throws to give OKC a one-point advantage, Russell Westbrook followed that up with an emphatic dunk to put the Thunder up three with 25 seconds left. Paul Millsap trimmed the lead to one on the Nuggets’ next possession, then Denver intentionally fouled Paul George and sent him to the line with an opportunity to push OKC’s lead back to three. Naturally, he made one of two — leaving the door wide open.
After a Nuggets timeout, Will Barton was able to break free and get a layup to fall, tying the game at 114-114 with nine seconds remaining. Billy Donovan then called a timeout with an opportunity to draw-up the game-winner. However, instead of getting the rack, Westbrook took a deep three at the buzzer… and that ended about as predictably as humanly possible.
Despite Corey Brewer opening up overtime with a three-pointer, the Nuggets simply made more plays in the extra frame. Westbrook and George combined to shoot 0-of-4 in OT, with the Thunder going 3-of-10 as a unit. On the other hand, Denver shot 4-of-6 and built a four-point lead in the final seconds before an inconsequential Alex Abrines buzzer-beater trimmed the deficit to one as time expired. Denver walked out of Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 126-125 victory.
Millsap led the way for the Nuggets with 36 points and 9 rebounds. Nikola Jokic added 26 points and 16 rebounds. Will Barton contributed 18, with Jamal Murray pitching in 15 of his own.
Westbrook had 33 points, 9 rebounds, and 13 assists for OKC, with Carmelo Anthony adding 23 points and 9 boards. Jerami Grant had 16 points in 24 minutes off the Thunder bench.
That sound you hear? It’s the Thunder fan base collectively mashing their Panic Buttons at the exact same time. The record moves to 44-33 with five games remaining. As for the Western Conference standings, OKC falls to sixth and is just a half-game up on the seventh-place Pelicans and eighth-place Jazz.
Highlights from the end of the fourth quarter and overtime:
Russ & Melo
Westbrook again had a gaudy stat line but struggled tremendously with his shot. He went 5-of-14 in the fourth quarter and overtime, providing no closing power and taking the ill-advised three to end regulation when all OKC needed was a two.
Final numbers and highlights:
33 pts, 9 reb, 13 ast, 2 stl, 12/32 FG, 4/9 3P, +2
Carmelo Anthony had his best offensive game in weeks, scoring 12 points in the first quarter and shooting well from downtown. Perhaps the biggest Melo note of the evening was Billy Donovan’s decision to close the fourth quarter with Jerami Grant in place of Melo — a decision apparently aided by Melo’s insistence.
Final numbers and highlights:
23 pts, 9 reb, 9/21 FG, 5/10 3P, +0
The Free Throw Monster. OKC shot 15-of-27 from the free throw line, good for just 55.7 percent. Chalk this up as another loss that would have been avoided by making the free ones.
PG13 & Steve. Not great nights for Paul George and Steven Adams. PG13 had 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals on 4-of-12 shooting — wrapping up as a -12 in 41 minutes. Adams again got the worse end of his matchup with Nikola Jokic, scoring just 7 points on 3-of-10 shooting and finishing his night as a -8.
Jerami. Jerami Grant was a bright spot, scoring 16 points and going 2-of-3 from downtown in 24 minutes. He was given an opportunity to close regulation — but had a potential game-winning layup blocked by Mason Plumlee with six seconds remaining in overtime.
Three-Point Barrage. The Thunder hit a franchise-record 20 three-pointers, a statistic that would have been mentioned far sooner had OKC ultimately won the game.
Losing on the Glass. Denver outrebounded OKC 58-50, despite the Thunder winning 18-12 on the offensive glass.
Abused in the Paint. The Nuggets outscored OKC 68-40 in the paint. They got whatever they wanted down low all night.
The Bench. In a reversal of last night, every member of the Thunder bench except for Terrance Ferguson finished with a positive net rating. Abrines (+21), Grant (+4), Patterson (+2), Felton (+1), and Ferguson (-8). The OKC bench outscored Denver’s by a tally of 39-32.
The Thunder returns to action on Sunday in another important game. Tip-off against the Pelicans is at 5:00 PM CT and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.