Thunder 103, Nuggets 90
Observations from the Thunderâ€™s 103-90 victory Thursday night at Denver:
- Tuesdayâ€™s 104-103 setback to Houston unquestionably was the Thunderâ€™s worst loss of the season. OKC blew an 11-point lead in the final 2Â˝ minutes, and blew it at home. The manner in which the Thunder lost and the place it lost, it couldnâ€™t have been much worse. That being said, not only was it imperative that OKC beat Denver on Thursday night, it was important how the Thunder looked doing it. OKCâ€™s 103-90 victory indeed was impressive. Tuesday nightâ€™s loss is not forgotten, but at least itâ€™s in the rearview window and could become a fleeting memory if OKC can sweep San Antonio and Portland in The Peake on Friday and Sunday night.
- Ignore Thabo Sefoloshaâ€™s stat line Thursday night (three points and one assist in 12 minutes, 27 seconds). His presence was undeniably huge. The Thunder had its identity back. Remember, OKC is 17-2 with Sefolosha in the starting lineup and 16-8 without him. â€śThe chemistry is going to get back to what it was before,â€ť Kevin Durant said.
- Daequan Cook isnâ€™t going to say anything about preferring to not start, but he immediately seemed at ease coming off the bench and getting into the flow, scoring 11 points in 16 minutes.
- At 11:15 a.m., Denver coach George Karl spoke of how much better his team would match up defensively with Danilo Gallinari and Neneâ€™ Hilario back in the lineup after missing the seasonâ€™s previous meeting against OKC. Less than two hours later, Neneâ€™ had been dealt to the Washington Wizards before the NBA trade deadline. Why would Karl bring up Neneâ€™ if he knew he wouldnâ€™t be playing? Maybe Karl didnâ€™t think the trade would go through. Denver media expressed shock at the trade.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he doesnâ€™t believe a shortened season and limited practice time necessarily led to fewer trades. â€śThereâ€™s not a lot of practices, you can say that, but you can blend it in,â€ť Brooks said. â€śNBA players and coaches, they figure it out and teach on the fly. â€¦ You have to deal with it and integrate it as quickly as possible. Itâ€™s tough, but thereâ€™s enough time to work it out.â€ť
- The best thing about Nick Collison, and there are many things, is heâ€™s a straight shooter. When the Thunder stinks, Collison will tell it to you straight. And when OKC excels, Collison will do the same. Keeping that in mind, here is what Collison thought of Russell Westbrookâ€™s performance against Denver: â€śRussell deserves a lot of credit. He defended really well. He got over every screen. I thought he was great tonight. He set the tone. So much of it was at the point of the ball. If we can avoid having to help so much (defensively) and avoid breakdowns at the point of the ball, weâ€™re a lot better, especially against a team like Denver. Heâ€™s still playing on a sore ankle and he showed a lot tonight. He was great, and (Nuggets point guard Ty) Lawson is tough, man. Heâ€™s one of the toughest to keep out of the lane. I was impressed with Russell.â€ť
- Speaking of Westbrook, he is starting to suffer the consequences for constantly whining for fouls and flashing his six-shooters when making 3-pointers. Denver fans started booing Westbrook the first time he touched the ball. Those boos quickly turned to groans as Westbrook buried his first three jump shots, but he made just 4 of his final 14 attempts to finish 7 for 17. With 7Â˝ minutes left in the game, Westbrook was booed loudly when he did a double-clutch reverse dunk well after a whistle had stopped play. One section in the stands started chanting â€śover-rated,â€ť which quickly fizzled out. Fans even booed when Westbrook was shaken up after being fouled with 2:41 remaining. With 2:25 left in the contest, Westbrook had a breakaway, but laid in the ball and placed it on the floor, drawing more boos.
- Iâ€™ve never heard fans boo more than in Denver. They spend much more energy booing than they do cheering for the Nuggets.
- The Thunder had a lengthy film session prior to the Thursday morningâ€™s shoot-around, during which the normally mild-mannered Brooks wasnâ€™t particularly kind. â€śWe watched a lot of film and saw how bad we were,â€ť Collison said. â€śDefensively, weâ€™ve been really bad. We were a different team tonight. So now the key for us is that needs to become a habit. It canâ€™t be just because we got embarrassed. Hopefully guys will see how fun it is to play like that and hopefully weâ€™ll keep it up.â€ť
- Speaking of the mild-mannered Brooks, he was slapped for a technical foul with 1:45 left in the second quarter when Ibaka was whistled for his third foul. Brooks was right. It was an atrocious call. Two trips before that was a delayed foul called on James Harden after the Thunder had gotten the ball back and was headed the other direction.
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