The Oklahoma City Thunder debuted last night in their first pre-season game, traveling to Denver to take on the Nuggets. OKC fell to Denver, 114-101. After a strong start, sloppy play, bad shooting, and foul trouble allowed the Nuggets to come away with a win.
The Thunder were led by Steven Adams, who finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes before fouling out. League MVP Kevin Durant played 12 minutes, finishing with 11 points and 2 rebounds. Russell Westbrook played 13 minutes, finishing with 4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals.
The Nuggets were led by Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
I wasn't surprised at all from their loss. In-fact, I think it is an acceptable and expected loss as the Thunder played the Nuggets without Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Nick Collison. In addition to that, coach Scott Brooks limited Kevin Durant's and Russell Westbrook's playing time to 12 minutes and 13 minutes respectively, which placeda huge responsibility on the young inexperienced players on the floor to face a team that played all their starters and took the game more seriously. The loss is secondary though; what was important was to see how the Thunder's new youthful pieces to the puzzle performed.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
The players overall played well at times and as a unit, but the lack of production and consistency in their offense shaped a massive issue on them especially that the offensive production from the shooting guard spot was completely dead. Beside that, their defense wasn't that stable. The Nuggets scored numerous points through fast-breaks which is because OKC's transition defense was too slow. Also, at some point, the aspect of frustration took over the players at the end of the game that resulted in a lack of effort and commitment in their performance.
However, for a squad that played without their Superstars as well as major key players, they overall played well. It was definitely a new experience for them; they met my expectations in terms of handling the game and being resistant in it. Failure is always the key towards success. Therefore, that game indeed was the best opportunity to fill the young players with experience, and get them ready for the regular season.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Thunder started the game strong with the following lineup; Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, Mitch McGary, and Steven Adams. They ended the first quarter with an 8 point lead. After that, Brooks decided to limit Durant's and Westbrook's playing minutes to 12 minutes only which helped the Nuggets to achieve a comeback in the second quarter. Despite that, the Thunder managed to end the first half with a tie 54-54.
As the second half began, both teams continued battling each other, and it was a close game. The third quarter ended with the Nuggets being up by one point 85-86. Moving on to the 4th quarter, the Thunder started struggling a lot from the field, and in return the Nuggets where successful scoring buckets from the field and being consistent. Since that momentum, the Nuggets started outscoring the Thunder and penetrating their defense until the end of the game, which made them, seal the victory easily.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 15 points. McGary scored 14 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished 2 assists while shooting 50% from the field. Adams, added 15 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks while shooting 87.5% from the field. Jeremy Lamb who played for a team high 36 minutes was totally frustrating from the field shooting 1-out of-14 from the field and 0-out of-6 from the 3-point line. He finished with 11 points.
Players such as Jackson, Lance Thomas, Morrow, Roberson, and Telfair combined for 41 points. The Thunder shot 37% from field goals overall and 21% only from behind the arc.
Regarding the Nuggets, Mozgov scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Lawson added 12 points. Affalo, Faried, Foye, Harris, and Arthur totaled up for 43 points respectively. The Nuggets shot 57% from the field goals and 50% from the 3-point line.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
Coach Scott Brooks needs to find the suitable shooting guard player that can produce a reliable offense in that spot. The whole squad needs to be consistent and also improve their offense creativity such as attacking the paint more often, scoring from under the paint, and increasing the post presence because depending on one aspect in the offense will never bring a successful outcome.
Next game: October 10, 2014 versus Dallas Mavericks.