Nuggets 114, Thunder 104
Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday’s loss to Denver.
- It’s real simple what happened here tonight. The Thunder got sucked into the Nuggets’ style, succumbed to it and suffered its first loss in 21 home games against Western Conference opponents. That was the story of the game, and it has to be a disappointing result for a team that should be past the point of playing its opponent’s style of play.
- For a team that likes to talk about how it prides itself on defense, the Thunder sure didn’t play much of it tonight. Instead, when the high-octane Nuggets came to town and the Thunder looked awfully interested in turning the contest into a run-and-gun affair. That much was evident from early in the first quarter. OKC pushed the pace, apparently trying to out-quick Denver’s quick, and jacked shots early and often.
- Some of the first quarter wasn’t so bad. But about halfway through the opening period, and for all of the second, the Thunder had embraced the track meet.
- Kevin Durant: “It’s easy to fall into that trap. That’s what they do. They get up and down the court. Our game is a little different. We want to run, but we want to run off of our defense. Those guys run off makes, misses of course and turnovers. But they continually run. They pass the ball well and they score a lot in the paint. So we fell into the trap and we couldn’t play that game with them.”
- The second thing that went wrong in this one was once the Nuggets wrestled away control of the game by playing its preferred style, the Thunder began to panic. Predictably, once OKC’s scorching first-half offense dried up the Nuggets pulled away. That’s when the Thunder’s offense bogged down and players started scrambling. It resulted in a pitiful third period offensively. OKC scored just 16 points on 6-for-20 shooting in that frame. The Nuggets pounced, building a 13-point lead.
- “We got away from making the extra pass in the second half,” said Thabo Sefolosha, “and that was the difference between the first and second half.”
- The sounds after the game were potentially troubling. It’s uncertain because you never know who’s being truthful and who’s simply supplying cliches to get on with their evening. But three different people I questioned ha three different responses to the same questions. Durant, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head about the style of play. Sefolosha, I thought, adequately summed up the second-half offense. But Thunder coach Scott Brooks didn’t express concern over either of the two. That very well could have been a product of Brooks simply protecting his team. But then Sefolosha sort of disagreed with Durant’s assessment about the pace. It led me to wonder if these guys are all on the same page and whether they have an understanding of who they really are and what it takes to get to where they want to go. Again, three-minute interviews aren’t the end all be all. There’s a number of reasons the message might not have been the same. But it certainly raised a red flag.
- Brooks didn’t seem to mind the pace: “There’s no question that they’re a very fast team. They’re third in the league in scoring. We’re second in the league in scoring. We both play fast. We want to make it a defensive game, no question. We want to make sure that we are locking them up defensively and not letting them get into their zone. But they did a good job. They were attacking on makes and misses.”
- Brooks also didn’t seem to mind the second-half offense: “We missed 3s. It’s one thing when you miss shots. It kind of can look like that…But I cannot complain too much about the offensive end of the floor. We always score enough points to win.”
- The third quarter offense was terrible!
- I’m not sure OKC ran a single set in the third quarter. The offense turned into chaos, with players taking it upon themselves to be the hero. A few frantic drive-and-kicks were about the best “designs” the Thunder could muster in that period.
- Maybe those few drive-and-kicks that ended with a missed 3 are what Brooks is referring to when he said he can’t complain about the offense. Maybe in his mind that was good execution.
- One last thing happened tonight that led to this result. It was a lack of balance. The Thunder had only three players score in double figures. The Nuggets had six. It will take a mighty scoring performance by Durant and Russell Westbrook to beat the Nuggets playing like that.
- And get this, Kevin Martin was the third 10-plus-point scorer for the Thunder. He had 12 at halftime. He finished with 14. Something was wrong with the offense.
- You telling me Reggie Jackson is a 12-minute player? Why does he have to nearly save the Thunder just to get 18 minutes?
- Brooks apparently learned his lesson from the last game against Denver. Ronnie Brewer checked in in the final two minutes of the opening quarter. Looked like Brooks was finally warming up to using his defensive skills. We’ll see what happens there going forward.
- The Nuggets scored 72 points in the paint.
- Denver had 39 points in the second quarter.
- With 2:54 remaining in the second quarter JaVale McGee missed a free throw, got his own rebound and got an immediate dunk. That. Cannot. Happen.
- Jackson elbowed Serge Ibaka above his right eye while skying for a rebound. It resulted in a cut and subsequent bleeding from Ibaka’s brow. Stinks for Ibaka. That’s the opposite eye that was close to swollen shut from when he fell into Tim Duncan’s knee.
- Very little else from this game mattered much. I could go into more observations, but blasting Derek Fisher isn’t going to change anything.
- Up next. At Memphis on Wednesday.
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