Originally Published: Apr 22, 2011 6:16 PM CDT
Denver-Just finished covering practice and media sessions with the Nuggets and Thunder on the eve of Game 3 of their first round Western Conference series.
Everyone knows the stat that equates to OKC having a 94 percent chance of beating Denver in their first round playoff series since they have gone up two games to none. But Kevin Durant just said he sees it the way his coach sees it that OKC has done what it's supposed to do in taking care of the two games at home. KD said the pressure is on OKC. Of course he's going overboard with that one because if Denver loses just one of the two games up here they'd have to win three of four. But what else would you expect from KD? He bought Coach Scotty Brooks declaration that you protect your home court and go on the road and try to secure the series with a win. Bottom line is a split is all the Thunder needs. But I'm not one who believes that since OKC has beaten the Nugs three straight that they'll waltz into the Pepsi bottle and pop out without a first round loss.
Denver surely won't fizzle like that. Brooks earnestly doesn't think so. He told us and has told his team over and over that Denver has one of the best playoff crowds in the NBA; that George Karl is a fighter see cancer if you area Doubting Thomas; and that Denver still runs in and out a bunch of galloping thoroughbreds who know how to get the ball to the bottom of the nylon.
After interviewing Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook, KD and the coach, the common theme was that they needed to respond to all the emotion by staying"composed." "And that stands for me too," said Brooks. There is pure vitriol in some parts up here, certainly with many fans and apparently with many people within the organization. They thought Westbrook's"Pistols Firing" routine after made threes was cocky and didn't like what they heard coming out of the Thunder locker room after the important Thunder win in the final regular season game between the two in Denver. I don't buy much of their talk. I can see where Westbrook can take it too far, but compared to the rest of the league, the Thunder controls their youthful exuberance better than most. <br/><br/>Predictably, I got different responses to questions about playing at 5,280 feet above sea level. I know playing basketball and football against CU in Boulder,my lungs chose not to cooperate early on.
Listening to Captain Kenyon Martin pontificate, it's clear he and his team are sold it's a factor as well. And don't think the wily Tarheel coach of the Nugs doesn't push any and all the buttons he can latch on to. Westbrook didn't have a good answer saying that this is his third year in the league and he's used to it. The best answer came from the guy who should know the most and provide the best answer. Brooksy said something I've never heard and I've heard this topic debated since 1970. Brooks said that there is something to it. But a player can overcome it if he works up a good sweat in a hard pregame warm up. Then he has time before the tip off to get his second wind. Makes all the sense in the world. Brooks added one more thing that didn't exactly fit in my case. He said, "Let's not forget that these are world-class athletes and they can run up and down very hard for a long time. That's what they do for a living." Tu-duh. Many more nuggets pardon the pun. Check back later.DB