The Oklahoma City Thunder concluded their three game road trip with a test against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets used a big night from their bench and made solid plays down the stretch to defeat the Thunder, 102-94. The Thunder’s struggles against Western Conference opponents continued as they dropped to 0-6 against teams from the West.
In the first half, the Thunder defense looked active and the Nuggets opportunities at the rim were few and far between. The offense flowed smoothly and the Thunder ended with 10 assists on the half. Carmelo Anthony had it going from the start and had 15 at the half. Jerami Grant also had double-digits by the half with 10. Paul George had a slow start to the game but finished the half strong.
In the second half, the defense that looked so active in the first half, started to give up easy baskets at the rim. Emmanuel Muiday got to the paint with ease, Will Barton got out in transition for layups, and the Nuggets began to hit open threes off of the paint touches.
Offensively, the Thunder reverted back to little ball movement and isolation from the stars. The Thunder only had 6 assists in the 2nd half. It has been the same style of scripts for the Thunder and they have not been able to put together a full 48 minutes of consistent basketball.
The Thunder and Nuggets battled to a stalemate after three quarters and the score remained tied at 82 with 8:24 remaining in the fourth. The Nuggets’ Muiday led a quick 7-0 run to pull ahead 89-82. The Thunder did battle back and Russell Westbrook knocked in a three to bring the score to 93-90 with 2:41 remaining. Millsap came back and converted a three-point play that proved to be the back-breaker.
The Thunder were outscored 54-38 in the paint and 19-11 in fast break points. They shot 42% from the field and made 11 threes out of 30 attempts. Also, the Thunder only made 7 of 14 free throw attempts.
Denver’s bench scored 49 points on the night. Muiday led the Nuggets with 21 points off the bench on a perfect 8-of-8 from the field. Jokic chipped in a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Millsap scored 17 points. Barton and Mason Plumlee scored 13 points apiece off the bench.
Carmelo Anthony (28 points) passed Allen Iverson for 24th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Melo also drained six three point baskets on the night. Westbrook struggled tonight shooting 6-of-22 and finishing with 13 points and 5 assists. George chipped in 13 points on 6-of-14 from the field. However, George was a non-factor in the 4th quarter and did not get a shot attempt.
The Thunder return to Oklahoma City for another showdown in the Western Conference against the Los Angeles Clippers.