Sunday afternoon at the Pepsi Center had all of the elements of a classic game…. but not the result the Nuggets wanted or needed.
They lost, 106-105 to Oklahoma City in the most heartbreaking fashion on what turned out to be an historic night. Thunder star guard Russell Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s record for triple doubles in a season, collecting his 42nd in the Thunder’s win with 50 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
In the process, he also knocked in a game-winning 3-point shot at the buzzer, a shot that doubled as the points that eliminated the Nuggets from the playoff chase.
It was an electric atmosphere all day long in the arena, as the Nuggets generally outplayed the Thunder, save for Westbrook’s performance. It was the final regular season home game, and the Nuggets finished 22-19 at the Pepsi Center.
Spoiled in the loss was a season-high 34 points out of Nuggets veteran Danilo Gallinari, who had 22 of them in the third quarter alone.
The Nuggets now have two games left in the season.
The Flow: Oklahoma City started out fast, and it was with a lot of bounce in their steps that they sprinted out to a 10-5 lead. The Nuggets settled into game using the 3-point shot. They knocked down four of them in the first quarter, and that helped offset a big Thunder edge in second chance points (8-0). Oklahoma City led 27-26 after one.
The Nuggets started the second quarter on a 9-0 run as the 3-pointers just kept on rolling. But Russell Westbrook was the force that kept OKC in contact. He had 17 points and seven rebounds in the quarter, pushing his halftime total to 23 points and 12 rebounds to go along with six assists. Oklahoma City finished the quarter on a 15-9 run, but the Nuggets held a 53-52 lead at the half.
Danilo Gallinari was the story of the third quarter. He scored 22 points in the period, making 7-of-9 shots, including 2-of-3 from the 3-point line. That was the major spark behind the Nuggets 38 points in the third, which led to the Nuggets opening up a 10-point lead (91-81) going into the fourth.
The Nuggets pushed the lead to 12 before Oklahoma City begin seriously chipping away at it. Westbrook set the record for triple doubles in the fourth, and once he got the assist that clinched it he went to work on scoring enough to bring his team back. His layup with 27.1 seconds brought the Thunder to within 105-103. After an empty Nuggets possession, Westbrook won the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
What it means: The Nuggets have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Deciding run: The Thunder ended the game on an 8-0 run.
Nuggets Standouts: Danilo Gallinari had 34 points and 10 rebounds. Wilson Chandler finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Nikola Jokic scored 23 points with six rebounds.
Stat of the Game: 20: Oklahoma City had 20 second chance points. The Nuggets had just four.
Next: The Nuggets head to Dallas for a Tuesday matchup against the Mavericks, the first of two road games to end the regular season.