The Denver Nuggets’ postseason hopes officially died Sunday. The cause of death was Russell Westbrook.
Oklahoma City’s do-everything guard scored 50 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, recorded 10 assists and with his team down two and the clock winding down, did this:
It was the cherry on top of a history-making night for Westbrook. He recorded his 42nd triple-double of the season, which broke Oscar Robertson’s single-season triple-double record of 41 that was set in 1961-62, and the Thunder won 106-105.
“Give him credit. He’s a hell of a player,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “MVP candidate. As many plays as he made down the stretch, I truly feel like we lost this game. Our turnovers in the fourth quarter, I think we had six turnovers for 10 points. So down the stretch, a lack of poise, a lack of execution.
“We picked up a technical foul. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. If you’re up 10 with 3 minutes to go, if you’re up seven with 1 minute, 12 (seconds) to go, that’s a game you have to pull out. Obviously, that’s been an issue for us most of this year.”
The Nuggets, who are one of the worst crunch-time teams in the NBA, led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter. They were up 103-93 with 3:20 to go and couldn’t pull the game out. Jokic was called for a flagrant foul and then a technical foul with a little less than 2 minutes remaining, which sent Westbrook to the line for three free throws. Westbrook won it with his buzzer-beating 3.
The Nuggets fell to 38-42 with the loss. They’re two games back of the Portland Trail Blazers in the standings, but that lead is really three games because Portland owns the tiebreaker. Each team has two games remaining in their season.
The Nuggets haven’t made the playoff since 2013. There were some promising moments this year — most notably Jokic emerging as a star player and leading one of the best offenses in the NBA — but Denver will have to wait at least one more year to get back to the postseason.
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