The Oklahoma City Thunder closed out pre-season play on Tuesday night with a road win against the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder used outstanding efforts on offense and defense able to hold on for a 96-86 victory in preparation for the regular season to begin.
The Thunder gave a look at what we should expect to see more of during the season. Billy Donovan continued to look at different lineups and rotations in the last dress rehearsal. Donovan got a nice addition as Alex Abrines made his preseason debut. However, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton were inactive due to injuries.
In the first quarter, the Thunder played at an elite level on both sides of the floor. Offensively, Russell Westbrook had it going early and sparked an 18-3 run in the quarter to build the Thunder lead to 12. The defense continued to impress, holding the Nuggets to 6-of-21 shooting for the period, while the Thunder offense shot 11-of-19. Westbrook scored 14 points in the opening frame.
The offense continued to click in the second, as a Paul George jumper and a Josh Huestis three started off the quarter. The Nuggets responded with four straight points off of two Thunder turnovers. A steal from George turned into an alley-oop dunk from Jerami Grant to give the Thunder an 11 point cushion. The Nuggets answered with a 7-0 run off of Thunder turnovers to make the score 35-31. The Thunder finished out the half strong with a trey from George, a jumper from Westbrook and a couple easy finishes at the rim from Carmelo Anthony to take a 49-39 lead into halftime.
The Thunder started the second half scoring 11 unanswered points to build a 60-39 advantage. Their swarming defense led to transition opportunities and the Thunder offense continued to execute at an efficient level. However, the offense hit a cold stretch as the quarter wore on, and the Nuggets were able to capitalize on the opportunity. The Nuggets closed out the quarter on a 19-5 run to pull within five as Will Barton’s 12 points in the period turned the game into a tight affair, with OKC leading only 69-64 after three quarters.
The youngsters played another big part in the 4th quarter of this game. Huestis, Terrance Ferguson, Dakari Johnson and Daniel Hamilton played big roles down the stretch along with George. Barton’s hot shooting continued with seven points early in the quarter. A layup from Kenneth Faried made the score 79-77 midway through the 4th, then the Thunder went on a 15-2 run led by hot shooting from beyond the arc. George hit four treys in the quarter and the Thunder hit six as a team. The Thunder’s late run was enough to pull away for the win.
The Thunder defense held the Nuggets to 34% shooting and forced 17 turnovers. The offense looked as good as we have seen this preseason shooting 42% and knocking down 15 three. Also, the Thunder had 24 assists and controlled the boards 56-46.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Melo chipped in 16 points. George added a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Thunder also got a big contribution from Josh Huestis, who had 14 points with four threes.
The Nuggets were led by Will Barton’s 26 points off the bench. Gary Harris chipped in 11 points and Nikola Jokic scored 12 points with 11 rebounds.
The Thunder will open regular season play on October 19th against the New York Knicks in Oklahoma City.