No. 6 Thunder @ No. 9 Nuggets
For many Thunder fans, the 2016-17 season sticks out greatly due to Russell Westbrook leading OKC with monstrous finishes and leading the league in field goal percentage at 42 percent (824-1,941).
This was also Westbrook’s MVP season becoming only the second Thunder player to capture the league MVP Award behind Kevin Durant (2014) who ironically was playing his first season with the Golden State Warriors after a requested trade following the Thunder’s loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals the year before.
There were many memorable games played during this season, and Westbrook had a lot of fire under his feet after being abandoned by Durant in the offseason, so one game that sticks out most is Westbrook’s game-winning shot over the Denver Nuggets to secure a 106-105 win.
Westbrook also set a single season triple-double record (42) with his 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. Thus the triple-double king was born.
The Thunder entered this matchup at 46-34, while the Nuggets held fast to a 38-42 record led by Nikola Jokić and none other than Danilo Gallinari. 19,718 fans piled into the Pepsi Center on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Denver as Jokić and Steven Adams took center court to tip things off.
- Russell Westbrook G
- Victor Oladipo G
- Steven Adams C
- Taj Gibson F
- Andre Roberson F
- Wilson Chandler F
- Danilo Gallinari F
- Jamal Murray G
- Gary Harris G
- Nikola Jokić C
Victor Oladipo, in his first and only season with the Thunder, was averaging 18 points per game against the Nuggets and fired first with a fade-away jumper over Wilson Chandler. Oladipo would have his second best shooting season of his career this season in OKC at .442 only topped by the following season in Indiana at .477.
Wilson Chandler got things going for the Nuggets draining a corner 3 over Taj Gibson. Chandler led the way for the Nuggets in 3-point shooting going 5-10, 6-11 total from the floor, and served as Denver’s most consistent 3-point shooter behind Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari was a powerhouse for the Nuggets with 12 points on 5-8 shooting not shying away from the 3-point line at 2-4 from deep. He performed crafty offensive strategies on guys like Enes Kanter and Taj Gibson, but Kanter racked up 9 points on 3-4 shooting in under five minutes to finish the quarter.
Nuggets lead 26-25.
Russell Westbrook shut the place down with his second quarter performance going 6-6 from the floor and having a 17-point performance in 8:35. He was unstoppable for OKC, but unfortunately for the Thunder, the Nuggets put together a more complete performance rather than a one-man show to keep themselves in the game.
Nikola Jokić lit it up scoring seven points aided by Jamal Murray’s six. The Nuggets got up to as much as a 9-point lead despite Westbrook’s sensational shooting, but the Thunder clawed their way back in thanks to bench player Kyle Singler playing the full 12 minutes scoring six points on 3-4 shooting.
Along with Westbrook’s 17 Q2 points, he also picked up seven rebounds and three assists to pave his path to triple-double No. 42. Nuggets defense locked down on Westbrook, but the powerful Thunder point guard couldn’t be stopped as he set up his shots with ease and composure to bring the Thunder to only a one-point deficit at the half.
Nuggets lead 53-52 at halftime.
The Thunder put together a more complete quarter with multiple contributions coming out of halftime with Russell Westbrook scoring nine, Taj Gibson with eight, and Enes Kanter with six and two rebounds.
Westbrook may have had his quarter to shine before the half, but it was all Danilo Gallinari for the Nuggets to kick off the third quarter. Gallinari shot lights out with 22 points on 7-9 shooting and a perfect 6-6 at the free throw line.
Andre Roberson, though remembered by Thunder fans as an exceptional defender, couldn’t begin to put the brakes on Gallinari as he committed three fouls in eight minutes. Roberson would have a silent quarter getting stuck in offensive traps and defending so poorly that he remained on the bench for the remainder of the game with four total fouls and only two points.
Denver would go on to outscore the Thunder 38-29.
Nuggets lead 91-81.
In one of the most interesting quarters in Thunder basketball, the tables flipped and they flipped fast. Major scorers such as Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari went completely silent combining for 0-3 shooting in the final quarter.
Russell Westbrook had yet another lights out performance with 18 points, 3 rebounds, and one assist. This aided his MVP campaign greatly displaying him as a player capable of taking situations into his own hands and leading his team to victory. Only Victor Oladipo, Semaj Christon, and Jerami Grant would assist in scoring, and the three combined for only seven points.
Nikola Jokić and Emmanuel Mudiay would combine for 14 points for the Nuggets’ only scoring drive to finish the game, and with Westbrook being completely unstoppable, the game would come down to the final buzzer.
OKC’s Kyle Singler would inbound the ball with 02.9 left in regulation. Steven Adams presented himself to Singler while loosely guarded by Mason Plumlee and immediately dishes it out to Westbrook. It’s 105-103 Denver. Westbrooks barely sets his feet above the arc as he’s tightly guarded by Jamal Murray, and right as the buzzer sounds, the ball sinks through the hoop. That’s game.
Thunder wins 106-105.
Fans may remember:
With this triple-double against the Nuggets, Westbrook surpassed Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record clinching his 42nd triple-double of the 2016-17 season. Earlier in the season, he sliced Wilt Chamberlain’s 78 career triple-doubles and stood alone in fourth place in NBA history.
Westbrook won the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player Award even with the Thunder taking a first-round exit in the Playoffs where the Hosuton Rockets defeated OKC 4-1 in the series.
As of now, Westbrook is the last league MVP the Oklahoma City Thunder has had.
The Thunder finished the 2016-17 season as the sixth seed at 47-35, while the Denver Nuggets finished in the ninth seed at 40-42.