Nuggets 105, Thunder 103
Observations from the Thunder’s loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night at Pepsi Center:
- Afterward, the Thunder locker room wasn’t the morgue you might imagine, nor should it have been. On a night when OKC looked horrible in many facets, it still took a heroic 21-footer with 0.2 seconds left from point guard Ty Lawson for the Nuggets to win the game. The Thunder frequently stunk, yet nearly beat the hottest team in the Western Conference … on the road.
- Thabo Sefolosha was in Lawson’s grill on the game-winner. “It’s the NBA,” Sefolosha said. “There’s a lot of good players. Some nights it goes in, and some nights it doesn’t.”
- OKC reserve forward Nick Collison explained the biggest frustration: “That’s the thing in a game like this. When it comes down to the wire, you realize how many bad plays we had early and if we get a couple of those backs, we win the game. We’ve got to be more consistent throughout the game, for sure.”
- When informed the Thunder bench was outscored 71-11, a stunned Kevin Durant looked up from his chair and said: “Say what? Sheesh.” KD was genuinely shocked.
- Predictably, Durant quickly returned to his role of falling on the sword when he didn’t need to. “We’ve just got to do a better job of helping them out,” Durant said of the starters, implying his 25 points and 14 rebounds weren’t enough. “We’ve got to give them a better cushion. I know when I come in there I’ve got to do a better job of helping the bench guys.”
- Denver is now 25-3 at Pepsi Center this season. “That second quarter, we got down 12 points. That’s tough to overcome, especially in this building. They made some shots, too,” Durant said.
- OKC was running Denver ragged at the outset, but it soon quickly flipped in the opposite direction. Why? “I don’t know. That’s a good question,” Durant said. “We’ve got to do a better job. Whoever comes in the game, we have to play with a sense of urgency. We have to fight. We can’t let them hit us first. We’ve got to be the first hitter. We have to do that the whole game, from the first guy to the last guy on the bench.”
- Collison explained why it’s important how a team runs: “We want to run, too, but we want to do it off of causing turnovers. We want the pace to be good that way (Collison pointed forward) and back this way (pointing backward) we want to get everybody back. We want to be a defensive team. That’s what we want to start with. Yes, we want to play fast, get the ball and run because we’re talented and athletic and we’re good at that, but we can’t be a team that trades baskets. That’s not going to good enough.”
- Westbrook played extremely well, especially early, converted five of his first eight shots and scoring 15 of his game-high 38 points in the first quarter.
- In response to Westbrook blocking two half-court shot by Nuggets mascot “Rocky” during OKC’s last visit to Pepsi Center, the sellout crowd of 19,521 gave Westbrook an earful all night long, yet he was unfazed.
- Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin might have been the most dejected player in the locker room, but still was pleasant while answering questions. “I put a lot of the blame on myself, if you want to put that out there,” Martin said of the second unit’s struggles. “It was just a really bad outing for me. I’m supposed to be a leader on that second group and I played like a rookie tonight. I’m going to put that on my plate for the second unit.”
- It was Martin’s worst game with the Thunder. Offense certainly was needed from the second unit tonight, and it failed to provide. Still classy in defeat, though. Great guy, Martin.
- Here’s hoping Martin and OKC come to financial terms after the season. It’ll take a sacrifice on his part, however. Accepting something in the $8-9 million range is taking quite a hit for a guy making $12.5 million this season.
- Durant: “In the half court, we’re a good defensive team. When we hold a team in half court to one shot and out, we’re pretty good.”
- Nuggets reserve guard Corey Brewer scored 26 against the Thunder on Jan. 20, which was a season-high for him at the time. Reserve forward Wilson Chandler tied a career-high with 35 points on Friday night. “Well, we owe this one to Wilson Chandler,” Denver coach George Karl said afterward. “He was great.”
- Sure, opposing role players sometimes go off, but why don’t any OKC role players ever do the same? Serge Ibaka and Martin are far more explosive than Chandler and Brewer. Reggie Jackson has the highest vertical on the team, so why doesn’t he take flight?
- The career high for Ibaka is 26, for Jackson it’s 14, but for Martin it’s 50. Man, imagine the final score if Martin could set a new career mark.
- OKC’s transition defense was horrid in the first half as the Nuggets scored 40 points in the paint and had 13 points off nine Thunder turnovers. “We didn’t play well at all,” Collison said. “Offensively, we weren’t getting good shots and it was almost like turnovers leading out to breaks. They were just flying down(court). We couldn’t get our defense set.”
- Why was the Thunder able to come back from a 56-47 halftime deficit? “We were making them shoot jump shots over our hand as opposed to shooting layups as they were most of the night,” Collison said. “That’s the key, especially with this team.”
- Yes, Denver is a legitimate contender in the West. “We’ve got to figure out how to play with that group,” Collison said.
- The Thunder was expected to land in Los Angeles around 3 a.m. Saturday and will rest until Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. tipoff against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
- John Rohde
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