OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder had virtually nothing to play for against the Denver Nuggets in their last game (and home game) of the season Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. After sitting his starters for the entire fourth quarter Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks played them in the final quarter against Denver, but it didn’t matter as the Thunder fell to the Nuggets 106-101.
OKC got off to a slow start in the game while Denver got into a groove early, jumping out to a 23-14 lead midway through the first quarter.
“I thought Denver did a good job of really establishing their pace in that first quarter,” Brooks said. “After that, we kind of controlled the style of play that we wanted to do in the last three quarters. All in all, it was a tough game — a tough loss. But one of the things that I’ve talked to the team about is that I’m proud of what they’ve done this year.”
The Thunder did get back in the game, and at one point led 76-71 with 4:02 left in the third quarter after a pair of free throws by Russell Westbrook. Denver came back with a 14-2 run in the final quarter though and held on for the victory.
Westbrook had a great all-around game, scoring 30 points, grabbing six rebounds, passing out nine assists, getting three steals and blocking four shots. He had only a pair of turnovers as well while leading the Thunder on offense.
“I just tried to come out with some energy,” Westbrook said. “We started off slowly, and I just tried to pick my teammates up … They started doubling off the pick-and-roll, and Serge (Ibaka) is able to knock that shot down consistently, so my job is to continue to pass it to him.”
The loss for the Thunder doesn’t put a damper on a remarkable season for the young team as they head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 47-19 record. The regular season is now over, and, as the saying goes for the playoffs, “Win, or go home.”
“Every year we’ve progressed,” Thunder player Kevin Durant said. “We lost tonight, but it doesn’t mean we had a bad year by any means. To reflect on the year, there were ups and downs. That’s what happens in this league, but we had a good year … We can’t worry about what we did during the regular season. That’s out the door. We have to get ready for the playoffs. I think we have another level that we can get to, and a few days of practice are really going to help us out.”
The playoffs begin Saturday and Sunday, but the actual game times and dates weren’t going to be announced until sometime Thursday night after the final games are played.