Nuggets Avoid Elimination with Win against Thunder

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:22 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Apr 26, 2011 12:34 AM CDT

Grant Belcher
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

DENVER – If the Thunder are going to clinch their first playoff series, they will have to wait at least one more game to do it.

With their backs against the wall, the Denver Nuggets rallied to hold off Oklahoma City 104-101 on Monday night in Denver.

The Thunder were looking for the sweep but now lead the series 3-1 as it heads back to OKC for Game 5.

Unlike the first three games of the series, Denver controlled the game early and led for much of the contest.

Oklahoma City didn’t pick up its first lead of the game until Kevin Durant hit two free throws with 4:30 remaining in the first half to go up 36-34.

After a 45-all tie at halftime, the third quarter remained tight, with a 3-pointer from J.R. Smith giving Denver a 71-69 lead after three.

But with their season on the line, the Nuggets responded in the fourth quarter. Smith’s 3 ended up being part of an 11-point run as Denver took its biggest lead of the game up to that point at nine.

OKC made several runs but couldn’t quite close the gap. Another 7-0 run from Denver gave it a 10-point advantage with 2:44 remaining, the largest lead for either team in the game.

The Thunder pulled to within two at 98-96 and again at 100-98, but the effort was too little, too late with Denver determined to keep its season alive.

The Nuggets shot just 70 percent from the free throw line in the game but made enough to close out the game down the stretch.

Turnovers (15) were a big factor for the Thunder in the game as they beat Denver in nearly every other statistical category despite the loss.

Durant had 31 points to lead all scorers.

Russell Westbrook put up 30 points but shot just 12-of-30 from the floor (0-of-7 from 3) and missed six of his final eight shots.

It was the first game all season that the Thunder lost when both of their All-Stars scored at least 30.

Serge Ibaka added a double-double with 13 points, 14 boards and five blocks.

Game 5 will take place at Oklahoma City Arena at Wednesday April 27 at 8:30 p.m.central time.