By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Russell Westbrook knows the Oklahoma City Thunder are living on the edge. In several games this season, they have allowed themselves to get down by huge deficits then have to fight their way back into games.
It happened again Monday with the Denver Nuggets in town. Trailing by 14 points, the Thunder clawed their way to a 115-113 victory over the Nuggets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Just toughness,” Westbrook said. “We are a tough group of guys. We take on the challenge especially when the game gets tight and gets close. We want to win games.”
However, the Thunder had to hold on in the final seconds to get the job done.
With 1:41 left, Denver and Oklahoma City sat tied at 105-105. Westbrook missed two shots, but forward Serge Ibaka grabbed the rebound of the second and slung the ball out to forward Kevin Durant at the top of the key. He calmly drained a 3-pointer to put the Thunder (7-3) up by three before doing a little shimmy.
“I love it man,” Westbrook said of Durant’s animated dance. “I’m full of animation. I’m glad he finally added some animation to his game too, so it’s good.”
Denver (4-6) cut the gap to 108-106 when forward Kenneth Faried made one of two free throws with 39 seconds left.
Westbrook then dribbled past Denver guard Randy Foye and center J.J. Hickson for an uncontested layup to put the Thunder up by four with 22 seconds to go.
Nuggets guard Ty Lawson answered with a step-back jumper. With 14 seconds remaining, Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson was fouled and knocked down two free throws.
On the ensuing Nuggets possession, Ibaka was called for goaltending on a Lawson layup with 7.8 seconds left, slicing Oklahoma City’s lead to two.
Westbrook was fouled on the inbounds pass and made one of two free throws.
Thunder guard Derek Fisher then fouled Lawson before he could get up a 3-point attempt with 3.9 seconds left. Lawson hit the first foul shot and attempted to miss the second, but the ball banked in.
Denver was forced to foul Fisher, who sank both of his free throws for a 115-112 lead.
Westbrook fouled Lawson, who once again hit the first one. This time the second came off the rim and went out of bounds off an Oklahoma City player. Denver had the ball with 2.1 seconds to go.
Hickson got off a 3-pointer that hit nothing but backboard as the Thunder held on for the win.
Durant collected eight rebounds and six assists to go along with his 38 points on 11-of-27 shooting. Westbrook contributed 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Lawson led Denver with 29 points and eight assists. Hickson had a game-high 19 rebounds to go with 18 points.
The Nuggets shot themselves in the foot by shooting 25-for-43 at the free throw line and were out-rebounded 53-45.
“Although I don’t believe in moral victories, there is a lot to be learned from this,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “We can’t coach effort. The effort was there. It’s just sad that it comes down to us missing 18 free throws and us giving up 19 offensive rebounds. The importance of the small details of making free throws and boxing out.”