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Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets: 2011 NBA Quarter-Finals, Game 3; Slamming the Door Shut

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Records: The Denver Nuggets (50-32) vs. The Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

Series: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 (Thunder Lead Series 3-0)

Time: 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time

Place: The Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

TV: Turner Network Television, Fox Sports Net Oklahoma HD, Altitude Sports and Entertainment HD

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), Mile High Sports Radio 1510

Enemy Blog(s): Denver Stiffs, Roundball Mining Company

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

In the entire history of the NBA playoffs, no team has ever come down from a 3-0 deficit. That being said, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Thunder lost tonight. I know, I've been rambling all series about how I thought the Thunder would lose, and how I thought the series was going to go seven games. But it's a lot harder to shut the door on a playoff series than you might think. Don't believe me? Philadelphia and Indiana just prevented sweeps, with the only team so far this year successfully completing a sweep being the experienced Celtics against the flawed Knicks.

Then again, I also wouldn't be surprised to see Denver crumble under the pressure of this game. J.R. Smith has proved himself to be an emotional basketcase, and he might be looking forward to departing the Nuggets in the off-season. The Denver fans streamed out of their seats towards the end of the game, and George Karl looked despondent. I can't claim to know what's going on in the heads of Nuggets fans or Nuggets players, but, knowing what I do about being human, there can only be one of two responses in Game 4 from the Nuggets. They will either show extreme apathy or extreme purpose. As a Thunder fan, I hope for the former, but the Thunder have to look for the latter.

The Nuggets got really gamey with some of the plays they ran in Game 3 of the playoffs. They would run plays where the ball went through the hands of every single player on their team, and their offensive blunders would usually only come from a lack of skill or talent. That's a good thing to have in most situations, so if the Nuggets can feed off the crowd energy and make a huge run, then they could do well for themselves. They also need to stop riding their starters so heavily. I can get that the Nuggets are trying to form a rotation and such, but guys like J.R. Smith, Al Harrington, and Raymond Felton are really getting snubbed in terms of minutes, regardless of production.

But from a Thunder perspective, all they really need to do is cut down stupid mistakes and keep on going on. Their defense is superb, their offense works, and the only thing that seems to kill them is intangibles. Things like Russell Westbrook holding the ball and senselessly charging at the basket, Kendrick Perkins making a terrible long pass, Kevin Durant committing a turnover, or someone deciding to set up camp in the paint. Of course, things could fall apart and the Thunder could revert to the type of team they were in Games 1 and 2. But, hopefully that won't happen. The Thunder should be able to shut the door on this one.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 97, Denver 95