2008-09 Game 79: Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder Live Blog!

I am coming to you from the EconoLodge in Sioux Center, IA in anticipation of a big night for the Denver Nuggets.  The Portland Trail Blazers are playing the San Antonio Spurs right now and the Nuggets play the Thunder later tonight.  It is possible that the Nuggets will clinch the Northwest Division title in just a few short hours.  

The Spurs and Blazers are on ESPN and as long as my wireless connection is strong enough I can follow the Nuggets game on NBA League Pass Broadband.  Here we go…

6:37 (all times Central and PM, we all know it is not 6:30 in the morning in the US so I will not waste keystrokes notating PM from here on out) - I have picked up my Pizza Hut Meat Lovers (TM) pizza and a couple of 20 ounce bottles of A&W.  I was a little bummed out about paying $16.0 for a medium pizza, but when I got back to my room I opened it up and it looked like after they cooked it they sprinkled another layer of sausage on it like croutons on a salad, plus I will get reimbursed so I am going to just enjoy it.

 Moving on, I missed the first quarter of the Spurs/Blazers game and am pleased to report that San Antonio is up by 15 as we start the second quarter.  Nice.

6:41 - Before the start of the second quarter Nate McMillan said that the Blazers are settling for jumpers.  I know what that is like.

6:43 – The Spurs score another easy bucket as Greg Oden fails to shut down the lane like an elite defender.  The Ginobili-less Spurs are up 19 early in the second.  

6:44 - By the way, you can watch the Spurs/Blazers game on ESPN360.

6:48 - As Jon Barry points out, why does Greg Oden push Bruce  Bowen out of the way to get a rebound?  Does he not have an extra six or seven inches and 75 pounds on him?  Second foul on Oden who gives up a tip shot to Tim Thomas on the other end before throwing down a dunk on the return trip.  Spurs up 17.

6:51 – Steve Blake penetrates the Spurs defense and dishes off to Travis Outlaw for a dunk.  Popovic calls timeout.  This game is definitely not over and we will see how the Spurs adjust to life without Ginobili.

6:55 - The Blazers go to zone and the Spurs start depending on jumpers while Portland is now attacking the rim.  They have at least eight points in the paint over their previous five or six possessions.

6:57 - Roy is taking this game over much earlier than usual.  He has brought Portland to within 11 with a flurry of layups and an assist or two.  Time out San Antonio.

7:02 - Usually if Oden gets a pass when he is outside the charge circle he starts looking to pass.  Upon catching a pass halfway up the left side of the lane and saw he was being covered by Matt Bonner.  He took a dribble (I think with his left hand) to get closer to the basket and flips in a left handed lay up.  Good recognition and a high percentage move.  Of course, he should not deserve too much credit.  It is what most big men would do.

7:06 - Outlaw hits a 15 foot jumper off a cross screen to pull the Blazers to within nine, 47-38.

7:08 – Why does Jon Barry keep talking about the Blazers players’ like they play for Partizan Red Star?  NBA fans are aware of Brandon Roy.  The media caught onto him a couple of years ago.  Rudy Fernandez is a rookie, but we have known about him for a while too.  He played for a team called “Spain” in a thing called the “Olympics.”  These guys are not strangers.

7:11 - Interesting end to the first half.  OK, that was an understatement.  An incredible end to the first half.  Portland had the ball with 21 seconds left and the shot clock off.  Hold for the final shot right?  Well, Blake and Roy hooked up on a backdoor cut that was left wide open because the Spurs expected them to hold for the final shot.  Roy made the layup and was fouled.  However, that gave the Spurs the ball with 15 seconds left.  Do you hold for the final shot or take the easy bucket like Portland did?  

The conventional wisdom is to hold for the final shot.  It is your chance to get an extra possession on your opponent however, is it worth passing an easy two points just to limit one possession?  I do not have the answer, but taking the quick shot sure worked for the Blazers against the Spurs to close out the first half.  

Tony Parker answered Roy’s three point play by making a layup of his own, however, there was still just over three seconds left and Blake tossed in a half court three at the buzzer to give the Blazers six points in the final 16 seconds and more importantly cut the Spurs’ lead down to two points at the half.

7:27 - Turning the focus to the Nuggets game tonight is definitely a must win game.  Not must win to make the playoffs or win the division, but must win to continue to have a shot at advancing in the playoffs.  Yes, Denver is in a great position to claim the second seed, but they are still in danger of not having home court advantage in the playoffs if they drop two or three of their final four games.  

Kenyon Martin will not play tonight and Balkman will start in his place.

After showing some spunk the Thunder have stumbled down the stretch.  They have lost six of their last seven, although the one win was at San Antonio, and Kevin Durant is still not quite back to where he was before spraining an ankle about a month ago.  Still, they are dangerous and Durant loves to light up Denver.

I am not sure how much posting I will do during the game because I will be watching on my computer which will make tying difficult, but I will do my best.

7:37 - I am sure you guys are wondering what Iowa is like.  Well, on my way to get my pizza I found one station that was not playing country and the DJ played a new song from Richard Marx called “Hold on to the night.”

Here on the western side of the state that borders South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota about 98% of the stations play country music.  One percent plays Christian music and one percent plays Richard Marx.  The eastern side of the state that borders Illinois is much better.  There the breakdown is 45% country, 45% classic rock, eight percent Christian and there is one current hits station and one alternative station.  Much better, but you still have to work to find a song that is younger than Kevin Durant. 

By the way, the Spurs started out the third quarter strong pushing their lead back up to eight.

7:43 - Wow, Matt Bonner just penetrated and kicked out to Mason for an open three.  Bonner created a shot for a teammate!  Put that in the season highlight video.

7:44 - Aldridge is taking the game over.  They are tied at 61.

7:46 - Roy three point play, Portland up 64-63.

7:47 - I had intended to talk more about the west and less about the play by play of the game, but I have three quarters of a pizza and 30 ounces of A&W in me and I feel a food coma coming on.  Anyway, we have been wondering about if Denver can hold off the Spurs and hang onto the second position.  The way San Antonio is playing they could very well fall to fifth or sixth.  That has to be in the conversation.  As a couple of you have pointed out if Houston can pass the Spurs in the Southwest Division that would reinstate the Rockets’ 3-1 series win into the equation as the tie breaker should they tie the Nuggets.  

I still think the Nuggets should end up as either the second or third seed and part of that reason is I think they beat Portland on the last night of the regular season.

7:53 - The Blazers are up three and Roy has not had to do much to regain the lead in the third quarter.  He should be poised to implement his typical Brandon Roy act in the fourth.

7:56 - Really bad news for Spurs fans.  Tim Duncan has not been 100%.  Well, in a tough and important game Duncan has four points and five rebounds through three quarters with 23 minutes of game time.  Tony Parker is amazing, but he cannot do it on his own.

8:03 - I get my first view of Hastings and Marlowe, yes it is the Altitude feed on League Pass Broadband!  I cannot wait to hear how bad NBA officiating is.

8:05 - It appears I will be able to watch the game in ten second increments.  That should work, right?

8:06 - Portland is up five with less than eight minutes left.  I do not see anyway the Spurs are winning this game.  Make that a seven point Blazer lead.  No Northwest Division crown tonight.

8:11 – Great just as the game is starting my feed completely grinds to a halt.

8:13 – I can hear what is happening, but I am stuck looking at J.R. Smith clapping at the scorer’s table, which happened about five minutes ago.

8:16 – So far this is a disaster. I have seen about 15 seconds of the game and it was footage of Melo’s free throws. Exciting.

8:36 – I went to the tiny screen and managed to see the final two minutes of the first quarter. It looks like the Thunder are getting whatever shot they want on offense. The Nuggets have done a very good job of jumping on weaker teams in the first half and taking away any hope they may have had of winning. Let’s see if they can ramp up the defense in the second quarter and build a lead.

8:44 – Nuggets getting some great outlet passes resulting in easy buckets. Kleiza got to the line off a pass up the floor off a dead ball. You do not see that everyday. Durant is out of the game and Denver needs to keep building their lead.

8:49 – If the Nuggets do not get a steal they cannot stop the Thunder. Completely in-cohesive on defense.

8:51 - Kleiza claims he speaks four languages.  He forgot the fifth one.  He definitely speaks brick.

8:54 – Did Karl actually just say the Nuggets play like the most like the San Antonio Spurs than any other team in the NBA? Beating the crap out of bad teams does not make you like the Spurs.

8:58 – Oklahoma City is killing Denver on the pick and roll. Once again Denver is not putting in the mental effort in to defend the play everyone in the league runs over and over every game. Denver is playing completely reactionary defense and they are always a step late.

9:01 – J.R. has gotten to the rim a couple of times, but Melo is not getting a chance to touch the ball. Get Melo in the post and see what happens.

9:02 – Denver is playing this game like there is nothing on the line. If they think this two game lead in for the second seed is safe, they will find out otherwise.

9:07 – Denver is down three at the half. Chris Marlowe just said something along the lines of how Karl is probably going over his half time speech in his mind. It makes me mad that everyone thinks it is the coach’s job to get the players to put forth an honest effort. If the Nuggets players need a reason to come out and pound on the Thunder there is something wrong with them. If they want the national media to buy what they are selling, they cannot struggle like this against the Thunder.

If George Karl wants the league to think Denver plays defense like the Spurs, they cannot submit a half like this. You can play like the Spurs for two weeks and then if you play a half like this everyone is going to look at it and say, “See nothing has changed in Denver.”

9:32 – I am not encouraged by the start of the third quarter. Oklahoma City is still getting whatever they want on defense and all of Denver’s points are coming from the perimeter.

9:37 – Terrible three by Birdman, just horrific.

9:41 – Nice play by Kleiza on the offensive glass. If Denver can just boost their effort a little they will be in good shape.

9:55 – Denver can win this game with offense, but it sure would be nice to see some D to close the game out.

10:08 -Whether you love Kleiza or hate him, he has payed his best all around offensive game in a long time tonight and without him hitting a couple of threes and running the floor Denver would certainly not be up 11 right now. They are up 11 right? I am watching on a screen the size of a business card.

10:11 – OK, nine point lead.

10:15 – Denver begins attacking the rim with Melo and Nene getting big (easy) dunks and Denver has built a 12 point lead. This game should be over.

10:19 – I say something nice about Kleiza and eh chucks up two contested threes and tries to give the game back to the Thunder. Glad to see him head to the pine.

10:23 – What do we need to do to get the Nuggets to stop shooting threes? Are they trying to keep it interesting? Is Stan Kronke in their ear telling them not to win by too much because Altitude needs the ratings?

10:27 – There you have it. An uninspiring win against a scrappy team (note I said scrappy, not crappy although their record would suggest otherwise). My final thoughts are that Nene was absolutely terrible on defense. He never stepped out to challenge a shooter when he had to and he was soft on screens. Birdman blocked a bunch of shots (seven), but went after a bunch of other shots that opened the lane up for offensive rebounds. The Thunder were only credited with 13 offensive boards, but I guarantee you that number is low. Once again the transition defense was nearly nonexistent.

Ultimately, Denver expended a lot of energy the night before they have to travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers in a game where a win would almost guarantee them the second seed and would give them a bit of a mental boost should they actually make it to the Western Conference Finals against LA.

There you have it. Four hours, almost a whole pizza, 40 ounces of root beer and one live blog that ended up missing out on recording Nuggets’ history. Maybe destiny is demanding a win on the final night of the season in Portland for the Nuggets to prove they deserve the division crown and the second seed in the playoffs.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  97.2

Defensive Efficiency:  115.2

Offensive Efficiency:  125.5

Box Score

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