After Oklahoma City fell short to Denver in Game 4, the Thunder will now look to close out the series at home.
Key players Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will lead the Thunder into the next round. Even though this group doesn't have a lot experience playing in big playoff games, their determination and skill level are up to par.
Several key factors have to come into play if the Thunder wish to close out the Nuggets. Whether they all fall into place is something we will find out.
Without further ado, here are the 10 reasons why Oklahoma City will win their next game at home.
Nick Collison has a reputation for being a smart player who knows how to position himself and control the interior. So far this series, nothing has changed about Collison’s game.
Collison will never put up big numbers but will always be able to play lockdown defense and make the right play.
Collison has done a great job of playing within himself these playoffs. Often matched up against Nene or Kenyon Martin, Collison has done a great job of keeping them off the boards.
Every great team has great role players, and that is exactly what Nick Collison exemplifies.
Glance at Wilson Chandler’s minutes per game during the playoffs and you might notice a trend: he played 32, 30, 22, and then 8 minutes last night.
See a pattern?
Even though Denver won with just eight minutes out of Chandler, stability in the lineup always helps a player’s confidence.
Chandler’s drop in playing time can be directly attributed to the return of Arron Afflalo. Known as a defensive stopper, Afflalo did a solid job against Durant in Game 4.
Not only does it hurt Chandler’s confidence, but it might hurt his chances of returning next year. Chandler is a free agent after this season, meaning Denver could be pushing him out of town right before our eyes.
Scott Brooks is amongst NBA head coaches with the least playoff experience. But even though this is only his second trip to the playoffs, Brooks has the young Thunder in a position to make some serious noise.
In only his third year as a head coach, Brooks is as inexperienced as the majority of his team. Though this team is chock-full of unproven players, Scott Brooks has instilled major confidence in them.
The Thunder carry themselves with the confidence and swagger that their Twitter accounts often refer to. Scott Brooks needs to send the NBA a message by dominating Denver at home in Game 5.
Take a quick glance at the numbers 28, 31, 32, and 33. Now these numbers may look nice if you had players scoring that many points per game, but unfortunately, for Denver those are the ages of their main post players.
Nene is at least three years younger than the next interior player that is closest in age, yet plays like he is eight years younger.
Wear and tear has really hurt the Nuggets, who have seen Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson’s play trend downwards over the past few years.
Considering that Denver is up against the youth of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, there is no surprise that Oklahoma City is up 3-1 in the series.
So far so good for the Kendrick Perkins experiment. The Thunder acquired Perkins for all the attributes he brings to the court.
His toughness, size, big game experience, ability to snag rebounds and overall “enforcer” mentality make Perkins a huge asset to this team.
Perkins does not back down from anyone, as displayed in the late game tangle with Denver big man Nene in Game 4. Even though no foul was called on the play, his impact in those situations makes the Thunder that much tougher inside.
Expect Perkins to continue to impose his will in Game 5, where Oklahoma City looks to eliminate the Nuggets.
This statistic is very well known league wide.
There are tons of factors that make overcoming a 3-0 deficit so hard. Beating a team like Oklahoma City is hard to do once, even harder to accomplish twice and almost impossible to do three times in a row.
Beating the Thunder four times in a row? I don’t even know if there is a word in the dictionary to describe a feat like that.
If Denver wants a shot at making history, it starts with winning in a very hostile environment on the road.
It’s no secret that Serge Ibaka has elevated his game to a new level this season. The lanky big man from the Republic of the Congo took a huge step in the right direction by adding various elements to his game.
In just his second season, Ibaka has seen his numbers rise across the board. Known as a shot blocker and rebounder, Ibaka averaged a hair under 10 points a game this year.
More impressively is what Ibaka has done in the playoffs. His playoff averages sit at 12.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game.
Watch out for Serge Ibaka, he is literally growing up in front of our eyes.
If you watches Game 4, you know what happened. Russell Westbrook scored 30 points on an Allen Iverson-like 30 shot attempts.
The Thunder certainly want Westbrook to take shots, but 30 is excessive for a point guard. The biggest fault in Westbrook’s night was his three-point shooting.
Westbrook went 0-7 from deep, including 0-2 in the closing seconds of the game.
However, Russell Westbrook will bounce back. He is a self-motivated player and takes performances like Game 4 to heart.
I fully expect Westbrook to return to form in Game 5 and take between 15 and 25 shots.
When you talk about home-court advantage in the NBA, one of the teams you have to mention is the Thunder.
Since moving to a small market city a few years ago, the Thunder have had phenomenal attendance at their home games.
Not to rip on the state of Oklahoma whatsoever, but it’s not exactly the biggest tourist destination. Now that the state has a professional team, thousands of fans routinely flock to the arena.
Even better for the Thunder is their playoff atmosphere. Oklahoma City regularly “blues out” the arena by providing everyone with a free Thunder t-shirt.
Anticipate Oklahoma City’s arena to be absolutely rocking in Game 5.
Kevin Durant, in my opinion, is ready to take over the NBA. His mix of shooting stroke, long frame, perimeter quickness, rebounding ability and mature leadership make him the real deal.
Last season was a warm up for Durant and the Thunder. As an eight seed, they gave the No. 1-seeded Lakers all they could handle in the first round.
Now that the Thunder have cut their seeding in half, Kevin Durant is eager to take them to the promise land.
Since Durant has already proved his clutch shooting abilities, it is just a matter of time before he does it in huge games.
Durant will get 33 plus points in Game 5, further showing why he is ready to be the next big star in the NBA.