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NBA Heat Check: Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder: Why the hometown Denver Nuggets couldn’t compete with the top tier Oklahoma City Thunder

Last night at the Pepsi Center, the good ol’ Nuggets took on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Our young team was going toe-to-toe with an NBA heavyweight, and were even up 10 points in the first quarter.

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I loved the energy in the building, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t really matter. Not to be a  Buzz Killington , but it seemed as though the Thunder were just getting into their groove.

Despite that ten point advantage, Kevin Durant hit a couple of his patented unblockable pull-up jumpers and Russell Westbrook fed Steven Adams for some easy jams, and just like that it was tied at half. As much as people want to say,”Oh, the Nuggets blew their lead,” or “KD won’t hit that contested of a shot this often,” it simply doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Nuggets were playing extremely efficiently to begin on offense, with Danilo Gallinari shooting overtop shorter defenders and Emmanuel Mudiay showing flashes of playmaking ability to come (and yes it’s coming). On the other end, the Thunder were sloppy, with silly turnovers, missed open shots, and lapses on defense. I was just waiting for the flow of the game to balance itself back into form. It seemed more likely to me that the Thunder, with two of the six best basketball players in the entire world, would stop playing like a high school team as opposed to the young and inexperienced Nuggets to play like the Spurs for 48 minutes.

In the end, that is more or less what happened, as the Thunder made spectacular play after spectacular play (okay, maybe the second one wasn’t as spectacular, but let me tell you, it was from the 7th row), while the Nuggets just couldn’t keep up, eventually falling short, 110-104. The most basic way of putting this is the fact that the margin for error for the Thunder is much larger than for the Nuggets. When a team is as talented as the Thunder, it just doesn’t matter as much when they play sloppy for a whole quarter because at any moment they could explode on a run and end the game. With Mudiay, the Nuggets are on the right path to getting to that point. 

Collegian NBA Blogger John Scriffiny can be reached at blogs@collegian.com or on Twitter at @JScriff.

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