HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’d like to thank the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets for almost ruining the final week of the regular season for us in one night.
Seriously fellas, we’ve got to wait another week for the second season to kick off. So when you two go out and kick off your (likely) first-round playoff matchup nearly a week and a half early, it makes anything less than what you gave us last night in Denver tough to watch.
It’s a good thing you’re going to do it again Friday night in Oklahoma City. But it’s even better seeing that the battle lines have already been drawn, courtesy of Thunder center Kendrick Perkins and Nuggets center Nene going forehead-to-forehead at one point.
The Thunder won for the first time in Denver since the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City from Seattle. And if this was a preview of what could be in store during a playoff series, Thunder-Nuggets will be must-see playoff action.
While there is mutual respect being tossed back and forth in advance of a potential meeting, at least one keen observer saw what we saw last night and predicts this series could be one of the most hotly contested affairs of the postseason.
More from Mark Kizla of the Denver Post:
Barring some unexpected chaos in the standings during the final eight days of the regular season, Denver and Oklahoma City are going to meet again in the first round of the playoffs.
And here’s one prediction:
There will be blood.
While we were obsessed around here with the departure of Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder executed a big trade of its own before the league deadline. Oklahoma City got meaner by obtaining center Kendrick Perkins from Boston.
At one juncture of the second quarter, it was not quite clear whether Perkins’ main intention was to collect a defensive rebound or punch holes the size of his fingernails in Nene’s neck.
The confrontation led to Nene and Perkins jawing at such close range they probably could’ve identified what the other man ate for lunch.
“It’s a physical game. You saw it,” Nene said. “That’s the way it is.”
Yes it is, Nene.
And that’s the way we love it this time of year.
The funny thing is, neither one of these teams would be in the positions they are in now without the movement that went on at the trade deadline last month.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were already neck-deep into All-Star seasons and both of these teams were obviously playoff contenders prior to the deadline. But they didn’t look the same before then. The Thunder are a much tougher group than they were before Perkins arrived. And the Nuggets are clearly a much more cohesive group now than they were during the seven-month ‘Melo affair.
Both coaches have acknowledged as much and they see mirror images of one another when they match up, per the Oklahoman:
“They are a great young team, and we are trying to prove that we are a good young team,” said Denver coach George Karl.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks returned the pleasantries.
“They’re a good team,” Brooks said. “They defend you. They rebound the ball. They pass the ball. And they get out in transition and shoot 3s. They’ve got a lot of talented players and they’re tough to match up against.”
We might be just days away from an absolutely ferocious first-round series between two hungry teams eager to prove to each other (and everyone else) that they are ready for prime time.
And in our experience, there is no better way to spend the opening days of the playoffs than with teams bent on proving themselves!