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Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka make history in Thunder win over Nuggets

Feb 20, 2012, 2:56 AM EDT

Denver Nuggets v Oklahoma City Thunder

Numbers so rarely tell the story in retrospect. Every number based on human performance requires interpretation, it requires understanding. The idea that numbers are meaningless in the context of basketball is asinine, but the idea that in 20 years, some kid will check basketball reference and see the box score for the Thunder’s 124-118 win over the Nuggets, marvel at it, and never really understand its texture is a shame. Because it felt like Kevin Durant scored 100, not 51, that Russell Westbrook was every bit as dominant as Durant, though he wasn’t, and that Serge Ibaka rendered the Nuggets limb from limb when in reality his man defense was questionable as ever, his weakside as brilliant as always.

But us? We’re lucky to have been here to witness it. We witnessed history. Sunday night was the first time in NBA history a team has had a 50-point scorer, a 40-point scorer, and a triple double, all by three different players. It was historic, it was legendary, it was all completely necessary to get past the Nuggets.

– Kevin Durant scored 51 points on 28 shots, includig 5 of 6 from the arc and 9-10 from the stripe. Durant was at once aggressive in his assault on the rim and opportunistic, slipping in crevices to find open looks from mid and long-range. It is a career high for Durant and his highest since scoring 47 on 28 shots lat year against Minnesota. Down 2 at the end of regulation, Durant slipped off a screen, caught the inbounds and burst past Chris Anderson to the rim for a dunk to tie. In overtime, a Serge Ibaka offensive rebound was kicked out to Durant who calmly slipped back from transition to find the perimeter line. That’s the key with Durant. He worked out of such a wide variety of situations, he flowed seemlessly through the offense on his way to those 51. It is a pinnacle game in Durant’s career.

– Russell Westbrook dropped 40 points in a game, and yet was completely overshadowed. Westbrook had nine asssists, which will be completely overlooked and just two turnovers. but the perception will remain that Westbrook shoots too much. Do you know how few 40-point scorers there on this league? Westbroook repeatedly rose and daggered the Nuggets late. His ballhawking ways put constant pressure on the Nuggets and forced turnovers. Kevin Durant took 28 shots and Westbrook still found his way to assist or score on 58 points. The fact he is so underrated is criminal.

– Serge Ibaka finished with the first triple-double using blocks in franchise history, OKC or Seattle. He finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 blocks. He ate up the Denver attacks at the rim, blocking and swatting and rejecting. It was his clutch offensive rebound and kickout to Kevin Durant in overtime that really cemented the game for OKC.

There is plenty to be concerned about beneath the surface for OKC. James Harden had a bad night. Kendrick Perkins does not seem like the defensive powerhouse he was brought in to be. The Thunder needed their two best players to score 91 points just to win a game, at home, against a depleted team, in overtime. But for a night, three players put the team on their shoulders and produced at a Herculean level. It was the stuff of legend.

Just another night in the NBA.

  1. narrabeen23 - Feb 20, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Let me preface this by saying KD and Westbrook are good enough to make them successful in any offense. Is it just me or does OKC’s offense just consist of points off turnovers, Westbrook taking his man off the dribble and then isos to Durant? If that’s the case, why does everyone feel Scott Brooks is some fabulous coach?

    • bigmeechy74 - Feb 20, 2012 at 11:06 PM

      i am a huge thunder fan and have watched every game but 1 this year and i agree with you totally

  2. usavebob - Feb 20, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Brooks ges the most out of a very diverse cast. Wins end with different bigs out there every night and the team plays like a team. They are hard workers and tend to have a feel for who is hot. Harden struggled last night so he gave it up. Ibaka was the only one of five bigs on the floor in crunch time and it worked. Brooks gets out of the way of a lot of young talent. As long as they stay healthy we will all enjoy some great basketball against the likes of the Spurs, Mavs, Heat and Bulls

    • narrabeen23 - Feb 20, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      I just don’t see anything about the thunder that makes me think “Scott brooks’ signature is on that aspect of their play” or “I can tell Scott brooks has made a difference there”. He reminds me of coach Spoelstra, he’s successful cuz he inherited a ton of talent. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just don’t think that sets him apart as a great coach in the league.

      Thibodeau is known for D, Doc is known for D and intensity, Phil Jackson was known for the triangle, George Karl is known for his ability to get the most out of his players and play team ball. Brooks? Nothing really stands out…I’m not trying to be overly critical, just wondering why he gets a ton of credit for the Thunder’s ascension when it seems to me that they are simply immensely talented (2nd best talent in the league next to the Heat, if not the best)

      • 9to19 - Feb 20, 2012 at 9:28 PM

        His halfcourt sets are lackluster, yes, but these guys didnt just come into the league as All-Stars or great players. He’s been key in helping develop all the young talent on the roster and that shows in the team’s extreme depth. He’s also an excellent motivator and he’s been able to help keep egos in check (not there are really any on this team). He’s not a great Xs and Os coach but he can get the most out of his roster and that’s been apparent since their surprise 50-win season in 2009-2010. He’s a good, not great, coach.

  3. cinnalocks - Feb 20, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Because they are successful at what they are doing. Look at the record. In this league winning is the bottom line and at 24/7 OKC is second best in the league. They are 12/1 at home and 12/6 on the road they look and sound pretty good and so does Scott. Why do you feel like he is not a fab coach?

  4. fm31970 - Feb 20, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    I’m shocked Robert Swift hadn’t already done what Ibaka just did.

    • cosanostra71 - Feb 20, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      before David Kahn decided to store away all the PGs from the rest of the NBA, there was Rick Sund, who decided to build the Triple Towers of Robert Swift, Mohammed Saer Sene and Johan Petro. Big men win championships, right?

  5. whit0101 - Feb 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    The only thing these two teams know about defense is they cannot play it.

  6. monstoro15 - Feb 20, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    The Thunder refs always bail OKC out when the game is getting close.

  7. jimeejohnson - Feb 20, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Denver played their hearts out. It could have been a blow out but the Nuggets are a competitive team. Durant may just be the greatest player in the world.

  8. max20characters - Feb 21, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    Monta Ellis drops 48 against the Thunder, no one cares. Durant has 3 more points and the whole world celebrates. #Underrated. #Snubbed.

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