Nuggets Vs. Thunder, Game 5: Denver's Season Ends With 100-97 Loss

The Nuggets exit the NBA Playoffs after the first round for the seventh time in the last eight years.

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2011 NBA Playoffs, Nuggets Vs. Thunder: Oklahoma City Ends Denver's Season In Game 5

The Denver Nuggets gave it everything they had, but in the end, they just came up short against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They lost 100-97 in Game 5 on Wednesday, bringing their season an end. But they put up just as much of a fight in this series as we have come to expect of them with their inspired play in the second half of the season. Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post has some reaction from Nuggets coach George Karl.

"We didn't close out this game and we didn't close out Game 1, and they're both difficult to swallow right now," Karl said. "We will, somewhere in the next week or so, wake up and realize we had a heck of a season. I'm thankful to be healthy and back coaching. It's just going to be a tough loss to get out of your system."

I don't think anybody could have expected the Nuggets to play as well as they did over the second half of the season after they traded Carmelo Anthony. But they re-grouped and played over their heads, and helped make one of the better first round series.

Our Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs isn't bummed that their team had to lose in the first round to the Thunder, that's understandable. They just wish it didn't have to happen quite like that.

The inability to hold a 9 point lead with three minutes to go is going to haunt the Nuggets all off season. I'm not going to sugar coat that. It's on the entire team that they let that happen. The Nuggets had this game in the palm of their hands and let it slip away. Allowing James Harden a wide open spot up three to tie was perplexing. There are so many things to point at that it would take all night. One thing is for sure, the Nuggets inability to close out two of the games in this series is why they are going home as we speak.

But the Nuggets had a season that was, if nothing else, entertaining. They now face a long offseason of wondering what could have been had they been able to close out two of the games in this series. But their effort was commendable, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.

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Nuggets Vs. Thunder Final Score: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka Eliminate Denver From Playoffs In 100-97 Victory

The Denver Nuggets' 2011 season came to an end on Wednesday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated them, 100-97. Kevin Durant carried the Thunder on his back with 41 points, but Serge Ibaka was also a key contributor on the defensive side of the ball.

It was a poor shooting night overall for the Thunder (36.6 percent), but Durant hit 14-of-27 shots, including two three-pointers. However, what helped him and his team was his 11 free throws made. The Thunder got calls all night long to get to the line, so the Thunder were able to make 34-of-42 free throw attempts. Durant's teammate, Russell Westbrook, made just 3-of-15 shots, but he made seven of his 10 free throws.

Serge Ibaka was a defensive beast all night long. Though he scored just one point, Ibaka blocked nine shots and grabbed eight rebounds. He had a key one against Nene in the final minutes of play.

With about 3:30 left in the game, the Nuggets held a nine-point lead, but then failed to hold the lead (whether due to questionable calls by the refs or not). Arron Afflalo led the team with 15 points, while Kenyon Martin added 14 points and 10 rebounds. However, the Thunder dominated the boards, 51-38. The Thunder had 16 offensive rebounds, the Nuggets just four.

The Thunder have won a playoff series for the first time since 2005, and that was when they were still the Seattle SuperSonics. The Nuggets have now exited the playoffs in the first round in seven of the last eight years.

For more on this game, visit Denver Stiffs for Nuggets coverage and Welcome to Loud City for the Thunder.

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Nuggets Vs. Thunder: Denver, OKC Play Close Game At Halftime, 50-50

Based on the first half results, the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to play a game that comes down to the wire. The Thunder turned a three-point deficit after the first quarter into a 50-50 tie at halftime.

The Thunder have been adept at getting the Nuggets into foul trouble, while the Nuggets can get the refs to blow the whistle on the Thunder. The Nuggets have twice the fouls the Thunder do (14-7) and a third of the free throws (5-of-6, 15-of-18). That free throw advantage has helped the Thunder overcome a 39 percent field goal percentage. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are hitting 51.3 percent of their shots.

No Nuggets scorer has stood out so far. Kenyon Martin leads with eight, while three other starters have seven. The bench has contributed 15 points.

The Thunder continue to rely on Kevin Durant, who has 17 points. Kendrick Perkins is second in scoring with nine points. Though he has zero points, Serge Ibaka grabbed six rebound and blocked five shots. But he did commit four turnovers. The Thunder hold a 24-18 rebounding advantage.

For more on this game, visit Denver Stiffs for Nuggets coverage and Welcome to Loud City for the Thunder.

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Nuggets Vs. Thunder Score: Denver Opens WIth A Three-Point Lead

The Denver Nuggets aren't displaying any of the malaise the had previously in Oklahoma City, as they lead the Thunder after the first quarter, 28-25. The Nuggets have relied on a balanced offensive attack while Kevin Durant remains the scorer for the Thunder. The Nuggets led by nine points late in the quarter, but a late run by the Thunder, capped by an Eric Maynor three, made it just a three-point lead.

Nene leads the Nuggets with six point and four rebounds, but Kenyon Martin has been having a good all-around game as well. Martin added four points, pulled down three boards, dished the ball out for two assists and stole the ball twice. The bench has added 12 points. Wilson Chandler has two points on two free throws.

Kevin Durant leads the Thunder with 13 points while the rest of the team has 12 combined. Serge Ibaka has five of the team's blocks, but he also has four turnovers.

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Nuggets Vs. Thunder, Game 5: Win Or Go Home

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.

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