No. 5 Nuggets @ No. 4 Thunder
2011 NBA Playoffs – Game One
The 2010-11 season was only the third season of existence for the franchise, but the Thunder was bringing in major national attention winning 55 regular-season games led by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and a roster full of talent, length, and agility.
Fueled by a short playoff run the season before, head coach for the Thunder Scott Brooks set up a dominant season for OKC starting with a nice 106-95 win over the Chicago Bulls in Chesapeake Energy Arena on Oct. 27, 2010.
Kevin Durant powered through the league in points scored averaging 27.45 during the first three months of the season aided by Russell Westbrook who averaged 23.95 points per game, improving his scoring average by almost eight points per game compared to the previous season. Serge Ibaka played a major role for OKC increasing his playing time to more than 27 minutes per game and was near the top of the league in blocks.
Finishing the regular season at 50-32, the Denver Nuggets entered the playoffs as the fifth seed led by Danilo Gallinari and Nenê Hilário after Carmelo Anthony and point guard Chauncey Billups were traded to the New York Knicks on Feb. 22 in a multi-player deal involving the Minnesota Timberwolves.
At 55-27, the Thunder just ended its best season in the three years it’s called Oklahoma City home, and with powerful performance from Westbrook and Durant, the odds were in the Thunder’s favor as 18,000-plus fans entered Chesapeake Energy Arena for a 9:30 p.m. matchup and game one of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
- Russell Westbrook G
- Thabo Sefolosha G
- Kevin Durant F
- Serge Ibaka F
- Kendrick Perkins C
- Ty Lawson G
- Wilson Chandler G
- Kenyon Martin F
- Danilo Gallinari F
- Nenê C
Nenê saw a powerful start for the Nuggets as he posterized Thunder center Kendrick Perkins in the paint going 5-6 for 10 first-quarter points, while Danilo Gallinari collected six points of his own helping the Nuggets to outscore OKC 33-24 to start what became a long back-and-forth game.
Russell Westbrook went off for the Thunder picking up 11 points on 4-6 shooting, going 3-3 at the charity stripe, and Kevin Durant contributed with his own nine points leaving Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden off the bench to be the only other teammates to contribute combining for four points.
OKC’s four turnovers in the first quarter put the ball into Denver’s hands at the right time to keep the Nuggets’ momentum agile, but Scott Brooks drew up ample opportunities to involve the Thunder bench in the second quarter, and OKC would control the game from there.
Nuggets lead 33-24.
Russell Westbrook saw a breakthrough performance to start the second quarter going off for 10 points only to be relieved by backup point guard Eric Maynor going 3-3 for six points off the bench. The bench unit had quite the performance coming in seeing as every second unit player shot 100 percent in the second quarter.
James Harden (1-1, 3 points), Nick Collison (1-1, 2 points), Nazr Mohammed (1-1, 2 points) Eric Maynor (3-3, 6 points), Daequan Cook (2-2, 5 points).
Raymond Felton came up big for the Nuggets off the bench with crafty shots in the paint and six points on 2-2 shooting, while Danilo Gallinari and J.R. Smith had big performances on offense to keep the Nuggets at a one-point advantage going into halftime despite being outscored 35-27.
Nuggets lead 60-59.
Russell Westbrook had 21 points in the first half to pose as a dominant offensive force for OKC, but the third quarter was all Kevin Durant as he found every open opportunity to put the ball up, made tough finishes around the rim, and shot 3-3 from downtown for 14 points on seven shots.
The Nuggets, determined to keep their powerful first-half performance going, faced injury coming out of halftime as Nenê and Kendrick Perkins collided knees causing Nenê to suffer a right knee contusion and take him out of the game. He would return later this quarter.
Eric Maynor erupted Chesapeake Energy Arena as the third quarter closed out with a big 3 to bring the Thunder ahead 86-82. He became the only other Thunder player besides Durant and Westbrook to pick up double-digit scoring with 12 points.
Thunder leads 86-82.
Kevin Durant took control for the Thunder having another 11-point quarter where his 41 points at the final buzzer became his career high points in a playoff game. Russell Westbrook ended the fourth with five more points of his own to finish with 10 second-half points and 31 overall.
Nenê still a little shaky from his third-quarter knee contusion, pushed forward for six points to close out the game, while Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton had four a piece, but the Nuggets lost control in the third quarter to Durant’s powerful shooting and massive defensive efforts from Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
A failed basket inference call for the Nuggets put OKC up 102-101 with just seconds left in the game, Westbrook finds his shot right above the free throw line for the And-1 and a 104-101 advance for the Thunder.
A forced and failed three-point attempt from Raymond Felton puts the ball back in Westbrook’s hands with 10 seconds left, and the Thunder would take Game One of the playoffs 107-103 over the Nuggets.
Thunder wins 107-103; 1-0 in Playoffs Round One.
Fans may remember:
The Thunder went on to defeat the Nuggets in Round One of the 2011 NBA Playoffs 4-1 to advance to a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder eliminated the Grizzlies in a 4-3 series to advance to the Western Conference Finals where the eventual NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks, knocked the Thunder out in a 4-1 series win.
The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in a 4-2 series win for the NBA title – This would be the Mavericks first (and only, for now) NBA Championship.
The Thunder finished the season at 55-27, and Kevin Durant was named the leader of points per game in the league averaging 27.7. This was his fourth year in the NBA – Third season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.