Thunder reel in first playoff series win
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
Kevin Durant's teammates kept telling him it was his time to take over the game.
Durant matched his best playoff performance with 41 points, including the final nine for Oklahoma City, and the Thunder closed out their first-round series against the Nuggets with a 100-97 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
The Thunder overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 4 minutes, and Durant provided all the offense down the stretch to send the Oklahoma City franchise to its first playoff series win since it was still in Seattle in 2005.
''I just tried to seize the moment and take advantage of it,'' Durant said. ''They kept feeding me the rock, I was able to get to some good spots and fortunately I made some shots.''
Durant put the Thunder ahead to stay on two free throws with 46 seconds left. Serge Ibaka then swatted Nene's dunk attempt for his ninth block of the game, and what Durant considered the most important play.
Durant followed with a 19-foot jumper to put the Thunder up 100-97 with 12 seconds left.
''Kevin just took over,'' Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison said. ''It was a pretty unbelievable performance.''
When the final horn sounded, Ibaka charged across the court thumping his chest before finding James Harden at midcourt to give him a hug. He also celebrated with Durant before the NBA's scoring champion stopped to give his mother and grandmother a kiss in their courtside seats.
The Thunder will face either San Antonio or Memphis in the second round.
''It's only the first stop,'' Durant said. ''We've got to keep moving, keep working and go from here.''
Afflalo, who missed the first two games of the series with a hamstring strain, led Denver with 15 points and Kenyon Martin added 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Nuggets have only made it out of the first round once during a stretch of eight straight postseason appearances - the first seven coming before Carmelo Anthony engineered a midseason trade to the Knicks this February.
''We didn't close out this game, we didn't close out Game 1 and ... they're both very difficult to swallow right now,'' Denver coach George Karl said. ''We will somewhere in the next week or wake up and realize that we had a hell of a season.''
The Nuggets were shooting 51 percent and seemed to be in control after Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson had driving layups during an 8-2 run that pushed Denver's lead to 91-82 with 4:15 to play. Chandler raced to the rim when Russell Westbrook didn't switch over to him off of a screen, and Lawson blew past Durant for his easy basket.
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Thunder coach Scott Brooks put his rim protector, Ibaka, back into the game and the defense tightened up from there.
Durant hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to start bringing the Thunder back, and he also connected on a leaner in the lane as Oklahoma City reeled off nine straight points to tie it on Harden's 3-pointer from the left side with 1:50 remaining.
Martin ended that spurt by tipping in Raymond Felton's miss for what ended up being Denver's only basket in the final 4 minutes. Durant answered at the other end and just kept hitting.
He put Oklahoma City on top with a three-point play with 1:05 remaining, connecting on a one-handed shot as he got knocked down in the lane.
Felton put Denver back ahead with two free throws after he tweaked his left ankle and had to be helped to the Nuggets bench. He walked gingerly to the line and hit both shots to make it 97-96, but Durant and Ibaka made sure that turned out to be the Nuggets' last lead.
''That's the first time in the playoffs I've felt this confident,'' said Durant, who also scored 41 in Game 1. ''It's the playoffs, and I felt good in that fourth, bringing my team back and trying to put us over the top a little bit.''
Durant made six of seven shots in his final hot stretch.
''He just made shots over and over,'' said Chandler, who was guarding Durant down the stretch. ''He made tough shots. He made open shots. ... He just made shots when he needed to.''
It appeared the Nuggets would get one last chance to go ahead when referee Bill Spooner momentarily awarded them possession with 14.8 seconds left after Durant took an inbounds pass and whirled with the ball near the midcourt line. He then reversed his own call and gave the ball back to Oklahoma City, setting up Durant's last jumper.
Westbrook had 14 points on 3-for-15 shooting, one game after he'd drawn criticism for attempting 30 shots.
Despite dreadful 37 percent shooting, Oklahoma City stuck with the Nuggets with a sizable edge in free-throw opportunities and offensive rebounds.
The Thunder made 34 of 42 foul shots - doubling the number of attempts Denver got - and also had 22 second-chance points off of 16 offensive boards.
Notes: Fans in the sellout crowd got free navy blue T-shirts that ended up matching the color of Denver's alternate uniforms. ... Lawson had made his first 19 free throws in the series before missing twice with 2:18 left in the game. ... Denver fell to 4-6 in Game 5s when trailing 1-3.