Oklahoma City entered Saturday night bearing a box of ammunition, resting Al Horford on Friday to finish off the back-to-back set. Attempts ran dry as the Denver Nuggets pelted the Thunder 126-96. The Thunder remain at the 12th seed with the loss, remaining 0.5 games back of 11th with a 14-20 record. Denver’s playoff push continues to snowball, currently gaining traction as the 8th seed off a 18-15 record.
Denver elevated right out the gate dropping the first 13 points in the contest using the Thunder 0-7 start for momentum. The lead snowballed to 24-6 in a matter of seven minutes off of 9-of-14 shooting compared to Oklahoma City’s 3-of-12 performance. The Thunder made efforts to cinch the gap however the Nuggets’ 70% shooting made things 38-20. Michael Porter Jr. could not be contained hoisting up 14 points in the first period while SGA was the clear bright spot with 8 points. Barren shooting killed the Blue and White through 12 going just 2-of-12 (16%) from distance to Denver’s 6-of-8 (75%) marksmanship.
The Thunder spruced things up with a fast 5-0 run but Denver struck their response with a cast of buckets. The lead wavered around 14 for the sunrise portion of the period as the bench infused Thunder took the Nuggets’ starters toe-to-toe. Oklahoma’s City dropped their deficit down to 11 but an 11-2 Denver run in the closing three-minutes inflated their lead to 65-43 at half.
Oklahoma City found players wide open off kick-outs however success was paltry. The Thunder shot 3-of-21 from distance in the first half, a location that netted near half of their attempts. The most glaring statistic that immersed was the blank sheet of free throws attempted, finding zero leeway from the officiatity crew.
Denver got the line for 6 trips, though they truthfully didn’t need it. The Nuggets squeezed out an uber-efficient 66% shooting off 27 made attempts. Pass-first basketball embodied the Mile High City offense, banking 20 assists led by Jokic’s 9. The only major slip-up for the team came on 9 turnovers, though they only garnered 11 points.
The Nuggets imposed their will again in the second half racking up a quick 26 point lead, and they kept their hot hand on lockdown. Oklahoma City made jabs at the lead, however it never dwindled below 20 the entire period. To make matters even worse for the Thunder, Denver’s lead only climbed, reaching its peak to end the quarter up 99-69.
Mark Daigneault used his fourth quarter to hand his second unit reps. The bench squad used their minutes concisely, but their deficit was just too far to top, ultimately falling 126-96.
“They were really sharp, obviously, to start the game… We got feisty there in the first half a little bit, especially when we went to our bench… We just didn’t have the attention to detail or energy to stop them.” Daigneault stated postgame.
Denver’s starters caused issues from the jump, with all five members posting double-digits at the game’s closure. Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. set the scoring tone with 46 points total. Jokic’s passing prowess never hung in the ballots Saturday, finishing with 13 assists to coexist with 19 points and 11 rebounds, squeezing out a triple-double.
Oklahoma City put all their marbles from distance Saturday, falling flat on a 11-of-47 (23%) performance. “I think offensively, we were doing a pretty good job. The type of defense they were playing, they packed it in a lot, it was a drive and kick game. We had a lot of open looks, but shots weren’t falling.” Bazley said.
In one of the team’s biggest oddities, the Thunder bench outscored the starters 52-44 — however their lead-man came right from the first five. Darius Bazley accumulated his season-high of 22 points — just one shy of his career-high, across 32 minutes. The sophomore’s nifty moves to the basket are finally starting to pay off, finding 4 of his 8 baskets in the paint. Assessing the floor has been the forwards best trait as of late, using his speed to get inside on players such as Bol Bol and Jokic, while catching faster players like Michael Porter Jr. with their pants down from three. “For the last 4 games or so in a row, the best thing about how he’s played is how he’s handled the controllable things.” Mark Daigneault said.
Isaiah Roby posted well-rounded numbers with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and a career-high 7 assists. The 23-year-old’s patience in the passing lanes transform him into one of the most deceptive bigs in the league. His tendency to sit outside has resulted in traditional centers to struggle either forcing a free Roby three or sacrificing potential slashes or cuts inside.
Ty Jerome has been a hard puzzle for opposing sides to solve through two games. The guard finished the night with 15 points (6-of-12 FG), 1 rebounds, and 2 assists. Jerome’s versatility at all three-levels has been breathtaking, showing no hesitancy to launch deep-triples (3-of-8) while also sneaking inside for push shots and lay-ins.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander couldn’t find much altitude vs. Denver, just managing to surface 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. SGA’s signature sidestep three couldn’t reach the target on 1-of-6 tries, and with the interior on lockdown — options became sparse.
Kenrich Williams provided another double-digit contest with 12 points, almost entirely coming inside, coupled with 5 rebounds.
The trio of starters in Lu Dort, Theo Maledon, and Al Horford will likely wish to forget this game. Their combined total of points amassed to just 9 points Saturday, converting on only 17% of tries (4-of-23.)
Oklahoma City (14-20) will get a highly coveted three-day layaway before setting of a back-to-set vs. the Dallas Mavericks (16-16) on Wednesday.