The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Denver Nuggets at home, 95-94. The win brings their record back to .500, as they are now sitting at 15-15 and, improbably, only a game out of the 5th seed despite all the challenges they’ve faced throughout the season thus far.
The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook who appears to be undergoing a bit of a surge lately. This game could have been picked out of his MVP campaign, as he nearly single-handedly delivered a game to the Thunder which appeared to be following a familiar script. OKC came out of the gates fast, had a massive letdown in the 3rd, and trailed by double-digits in the 4th. Only this time out, OKC showcased better resolve, not losing their heads but staying with what they do best on the defensive end.
Aside from Westbrook’s 16 4th quarter points on 7 made baskets (OKC shot 11-21 for the quarter), the defense was a critical component to the win. Just as OKC used their perimeter defense to stifle Denver in the 1st quarter, it returned after a 3rd quarter hiatus to once again frustrate the Nuggets into an 8-24 shooting quarter, including 2-10 from 3-point range. The effort made up (barely) for the anemic offensive output by Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, who combined for only 12 points on 5-19 shooting.
The Thunder were once again without center Steven Adams, who is still being held out in concussion protocol following an elbow to the chin he took in the win over the 76ers. The fact that OKC was able to slow down Denver with their defense, sans Adams, is a positive sign, but with Utah on the horizon, the Thunder will need continued focus if they want to finally crack the winning record barrier this year.