As long as the series continues, the Denver Nuggets will know that if they don't bring their A game, if they don't give 110%, if they don't leave it all on the floor, then there will be no more clichés for them to recite to the media.
The Nuggets were flat in the first three games of their first round 2011 NBA Playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, leaving them to scramble out of a 3-0 deficit. Great team play in game five gave Nugget fans a glimmer of hope as they travel to OKC for game five of their best-of-seven series.
As was the case on Monday, if the Nuggets lose, they are sent packing. Win and come back to Denver for game six on Friday, or lose and come back to Denver for the lengthened off-season.
Games 4-7 are actually the most fun parts of an NBA playoff series. After two off-days each between games 1-3, the teams actually get to get into a grove, playing every other day until the series ends. Plus there's more on the line. The Nuggets are playing with urgency, since they understand what's on the line if they lose. Meanwhile the Thunder are playing with an urgency to try and get the series over with in order to rest and prepare for the next round.
For the Nuggets to return the series to Denver, they need to do the impossible, stop Kevin Durant. It's not just that Durant's length leads to mismatches, it's that he can hit from anywhere on the court, as evident by his 5-6 shooting from beyond the arc on Monday night. So if they can't stop Durant, then maybe they should focus on stopping Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook has averaged 26.3 points per game in the series, to compliment Durant's 30.3. So that comes out to 55 percent of the Thunder's playoff points out of those two.
Now obviously you can't stop them, or the Nuggets would have already, so what the Nuggets need to do, especially with as deep of a bench as they have, is get physical. Give the Thunder stars a nudge when they get the ball. When they drive, let them know that nothing comes easy. I'm not saying the Nuggets should play dirty, per se, but rather hearken back to the mentality of the 1980's Celtics and let them know that playoff basketball is a different brand.
Contact might not deter Durant and Westbrook from taking their shots, but by the end of the game, and should they win, the end of the series, they might start pulling up early on shots, resulting in clanks and defensive rebounds.
Tonight's game tips at 7:30 p.m. MT and can be seen on Altitude.