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Thunder can eliminate the Rockets, while Nuggets force game six with Warriors

The Northwest division of the NBA’s Western Conference has two teams battling in the playoffs. The Oklahoma City Thunder is currently leading their best of seven series 3-1, while the Denver Nuggets won on Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors to narrow the Warriors lead in the series to 3-2.

The Thunder has played well in their four games in the postseason, but finds themselves missing one of their key players. In game two, of the Thunder’s first round series with Houston, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook was injured and lost for the rest of the postseason.

Oklahoma City won the third game of the series without Westbrook but fell to Houston 105-103 in game four. It was the first loss thus far for the Thunder in this year’s playoffs.

Westbrook was a very valuable part of the Thunder’s lineup. The point guard averaged over 23 points per game during the regular season as well as 7.5 assists per game. He led the Thunder steals and was the key to their transition game.

In the first two games of the series versus Houston, the Thunder scored a combined 45 points in their transition game. In games 3 and 4, without Westbrook playing, the Thunder only scored a combined 15 points in their transition game.

Oklahoma City most likely will get by Houston in this series, but without Westbrook in the lineup, the Thunder will have a difficult time with stronger teams that can defense better against their high scorer Kevin Durant to shut down their offense. Durant has had to pick up the slack without Westbrook on the floor and has scored 41 and 38 in the two games Westbrook has missed.

If the Thunder knocks the Rockets out of the postseason, they would face either the Memphis Grizzlies or the Los Angeles Clippers. Memphis currently leads that series 3-2 and if the Grizzlies were to win it, their defense is the type that could shut the Thunder offense down.

Denver started their postseason off with a two-point win in game 1 of their series versus the Golden State Warriors. However, the Nuggets then reeled off three straight losses to fall behind 3-1, only to win game 5 on Tuesday to trail Golden State 3-2.

Denver’s head coach George Karl shuffled his lineup on Tuesday to make it much bigger than in the first four games of the series and it paid off. JaVale McGee was given his first start of the season and he played well. He was strong on the boards, finished well around the hoop and blocked shots on defense.

Denver was helped in game 5 by the poor shooting of the Warriors. Four of the best Golden State shooters including high scorer Stephen Curry, combined to hit only 27 of 69 shots from the floor to end the game with a 39% shooting percentage. The Nuggets built a big lead in the game and in the end were able to hang on to force game 6.

 Game 6 will be played Thursday night in Oracle Arena in Oakland, California in front of the raucous Warriors fans.

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