J.R. Smith & Nuggets fall short

In each of the four NBA playoff games on Saturday one team had the chance to tie/or take the lead in the final seconds of regulation. In each of those cases that team failed to capitalize and took the loss. The Oklahoma City Thunder had a 10-point lead over the Denver Nuggets with :49.3 left in the game. After a furious Nuggets comeback guard J.R. Smith had a heavily contested 3-point field goal attempt fall short as time expired.

The failed field goal attempt means the Thunder now have a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, and the win snaps a 6-game road playoff losing streak. In fact, this is the franchise’s first road playoff win since 2005 when they were still the Seattle SuperSonics.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with 26 points and Russell Westbrook scored 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. Durant and Westbrook have each scored 20-or-more points six times in the same game over the last two postseasons. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the only two other sets of teammates that have scored 20+ points in the same game as many times as Durant and Westbrook over that span are Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant (11) and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (seven).

Another big contributor in Game 3 was Serge Ibaka who added 22 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. The 22 points matched his career high, while the 16 rebounds were a new career high. Ibaka joined Shawn Kemp as the only players in the Thunder/SuperSonics franchise to score 20 points, grab 15 rebounds and collect 4 blocks in a playoff game since 1991 (Kemp did it twice). The Elias Sports Bureau also says that at the age of 21 years, 217 days old, Ibaka became the youngest player to record at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots in a postseason game. Prior to Saturday, the youngest player to do that in a playoff game was Shaquille O’Neal, who had 24 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots at age 22 years and 53 days old against the Pacers on April 28, 1994.

The Nuggets shot just 37.2 percent from the field and missed 15 free throws, in the hard-fought three-point loss. They’ll host Game 4 on Monday, but of the 94 teams in NBA history that were down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, not a single one has avoided elimination.