Thunder Vs. Nuggets, Game 4: Denver Stays Alive With 104-101 Win

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Thunder Vs. Nuggets Final Score: Denver Stays Alive With 104-101 Game 4 Win

The Nuggets will not be swept under the rug.

Ty Lawson scored 27 points and hit two big free throws in the closing seconds, as the Denver Nuggets avoided a sweep by winning Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 104-101.

Danilo Gallinari recorded all 18 of his points in the second half for the Nuggets, who kept their season alive by forcing 15 turnovers while only committing eight themselves.

Kevin Durant netted 31 points and Russell Westbrook had 30, but the latter missed a trio of three-pointers in the final minute, including one at the buzzer to end the Thunder’s attempt at a sweep.

Game 5 is set for Wednesday back in Oklahoma City.

Be sure to check out our Thunder vs. Nuggets hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Nuggets, visit Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.

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Thunder Vs. Nuggets Score: Denver And Oklahoma City Tied At The Half

Oklahoma City came roaring back in the second quarter but Denver answered late to head into the half tied at 45-45. Ty Lawson leads all scorers with 14 points while Kenyon Martin has 11 points and six rebounds. Denver's shooting cooled off in the second period as they closed the half at 42%.

Kevin Durant has 10 points to lead the Thunder with Russell Westbrook close behind with nine. Neither player is shooting the ball particularly well with Durant going 2-8 and Westbrook at 3-12. Serge Ibaka chipped in eight points and seven rebounds. Oklahoma City has to feel pretty good to be tied with both Durant and Westbrook off the mark shooting wise in the first half. 

Be sure to check out our Thunder vs. Nuggets hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Nuggets, visit Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.    

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Thunder Vs. Nuggets Score: Kenyon Martin Pushes Denver To Early Advantage After One

While looking to avoid a sweep, Denver is off to a fast start leading Oklahoma City by a score of 26-20 after one. Kenyon Martin scored nine points in the first quarter to lead the Nuggets who shot a sizzling 52%. Aaron Afflalo added six points for Denver. 

Oklahoma City has had a tougher time offensively in the early going as they hit just 33% of their field goal attempts in the opening period. Kevin Durant scored eight points while Russell Westbrook tossed in seven. The Thunder have been able to stay close thanks to going 6-10 from the free throw line in the first. Conversely the Nuggets are just 3-4 from the line thus far. 

Be sure to check out our Thunder vs. Nuggets hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Nuggets, visit Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.    

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Thunder Vs. Nuggets, Game 4: Will Kevin Durant Burst Through To Second Round?

To be an incredible NBA scorer who, frankly, isn't the biggest contributor in other facets of the game is sometimes a burden. Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league, an exclamation mark in the flesh who combines rare efficiency with superstar usage to basically reanimate Michael Jordan in results, if not -- definitely not -- style. Only Jordan was one of the best defenders of his era (and the best at his position), and a great rebounder and passer. Kevin Durant is ... a really, really amazing scorer. We'll leave it at that.

This is where some of these other elite scorers run into trouble. Tracy McGrady had legit basketball minds tossing "Meh" at a young Kobe Bryant -- that's how good early T-Mac was. McGrady was also a pretty incredible passer, though, but couldn't find the right supporting cast or coach, frankly, to get over the first-round hump. His reputation and, some would say, self-confidence struggled because of it. Mid-career Kobe was similar, after Shaq and before Pau. What good was all of the scoring if it couldn't advance the team in the postseason?

If it's a burden for Durant, it doesn't show. Having a co-star like Russell Westbrook and a coach as plugged into the team dynamic and personality as Scott Brooks surely helps. And that's what this series -- the Oklahoma City Thunder's 3-0 lead over the Denver Nuggets -- is about as much as anything else. The Thunder has stars who work within the system. The Nuggets had a star, but he didn't mesh with the system, and he left, and the system survived, but now it needs a new star. Kevin Durant may not be the world's best defender, but he plays more defense for Brooks than Carmelo Anthony did for George Karl.

So Denver figured something out, that the 'Melo thing wasn't going to work, but that the system was pretty good, that Karl is a fantastic coach. But it took losing 'Melo to get that evidence, and unfortunately, the Nuggets didn't exactly get a future superstar or a shot at future superstars in the swap. The Nuggets got solid pieces to plug into the system, players who can produce now but won't ever really replicate Anthony's singular on-court presence. But now they need a star, preferably one more like Durant than 'Melo. And, as any number of teams in the lottery can tell you, that's a tall task, a bit of fortune mixed with luck and destiny.

So instead of a classic series, it appears we're getting a lesson in the power of The Star in the NBA, and a reminder that while trading a star may be the only course of action for whatever reason(s), it's still a crummy thing to have to do. If the Thunder vanquish the Nuggets for good (and by "for good" I mean "for the 2010-11 season"), it won't be a victory for 'Melo, but it won't be a victory for Denver either. While that seems obvious, the strain of anti-star fervor that accompanied Anthony's fall from grace might have made enough people forget that when 'Melo was in town, the team got a bit further than this.

Be sure to check out our Thunder vs. Nuggets hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Nuggets, visit Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.

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