Observations, news and notes from Monday night’s game.
- A 30-17 second quarter was the difference in the game. The Nuggets used the period to open a 55-40 lead at halftime and the Thunder never could recover. Never even got close.
- Oklahoma City went down big early and couldn’t recover because no one could make a shot. The Thunder shot 36.4 percent in the first half. And the problem was OKC kept shooting from the outside instead of attacking the rim.
- The Nuggets had a 19-9 advantage at the free throw line in the first half, an indication of which team was the more aggressive ballclub early.
- The Thunder again had trouble on the defensive glass, allowing 14 offensive rebounds. Kenyon Martin and Nene combined for 10 offensive rebounds. The Thunder ultimately won the overall rebounding battle 41-40 but Denver’s early rebounding helped the Nuggets jump out to their lead.
- In the end, this was a game that came down to the better team simply outperforming an inferior team. Because when you look at the box score none of it really explains how this was a blowout for much of the game. Both teams shot right at 40 percent. The Thunder, as I mentioned, won the overall rebounding battle. OKC had three more turnovers, but the Nuggets scored seven less points off OKC’s giveaways. The Thunder made more 3-pointers, had more assists and finished with more points in the paint. Denver attempted nine more free throws and made eight more, the only stat that provides some sort of explanation. But even that is misleading because some of those attempts at the line came down the stretch.
- Carmelo Anthony made some tough shots. This game showed why he’s considered the league’s best all-around scorer. He puts the ball in the basket from anywhere and has a knack for scoring even when he’s tightly covered. Some of the baskets he made while Kevin Durant and Jeff Green were hanging on him made you feel sorry for Green and KD. There was nothing more they could do. Melo just makes shots. And makes them look easy.
- Durant, for the second time in as many days, stood toe-to-toe with one of the game’s best, matching Melo’s skills before coming up short because of a lack of assistance. Durant had a game-high 32 points with 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. He was 9-for-20 from the field, but the only other Thunder players who shot a good percentage were Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison.
- Green got off to a great start but lost his rhythm when he needed stitches in his lip to control a cut he sustained in the third quarter while attempting to block a shot. He missed most of the third quarter but returned to play in the fourth. He finished with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting. Green made some nice hustle plays and smart decisions, though, and also had seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
- Pretty high praise from Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups after the game: “I love that team. They got a lot of young players that can really play. They play extremely hard. They were coming in on a back-to-back. We knew they’d be a little tired. But I got a lot of respect for that team. I like them a lot.”
- James Harden had some unreal set-ups. Although Shaun Livingston is currently the backup point guard it’s Harden who has been running the second unit of late. He had five assists in 24 minutes.
- Chris Andersen had a monster game off the bench. How he gets 15 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals is a mystery to me. An even bigger mystery is how he got to the free throw line 10 times and made nine of them.
- J.R. Smith came off the bench to score 19 points and join Anderson to form a deadly one-two punch that the Thunder had no counter for.
- Of all things that the Thunder couldn’t or didn’t do right, the one thing that OKC did a great job of was limiting Denver in transition. The Nuggets had only five fast break points. This could have been a much more encouraging performance had the Thunder made more shots, boxed out better and turned the ball over less. Yes, that’s asking a lot. But for the most part, the strength of this team showed up tonight. The Thunder held the league’s highest scoring team, one that averages 116 points at home, to six points under its season average and hampered the Nuggets into only 40 percent shooting.