Tonight’s game was a good test to see where the Thunder stood as they played on the road against an upper echelon team like the Nuggets. Well, let’s just say the gap between these two teams is far and wide.
When watching the game and examining the box score, it is fairly simple to see why the Thunder lost this game as badly as they did; the Nuggets out-rebounded OKC 58-41. Denver grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. The huge deficit on the boards led to Denver taking 19 more shots.
Unless the Thunder were shooting the lights out, it is impossible to overcome that shot deficit. The Thunder did not shoot well from outside as they went 14/43 (32.6%) and turned the ball over 19 times.
However with all things considered, this game was not as bad as it seemed. The Thunder’s young starters all played well.
I wish Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was more aggressive and looked to find his shot more, but that is not his game. Gary Harris deserves credit for a stellar job defensively. Shai scored just 14 points on 5/11 shooting and turned it over four times.
Meanwhile, the Thunder’s other starting Canadian, Lu Dort, was fantastic tonight. Dort put up 20 points and shot 3/6 from three. Dort did a great job on defense as the Nuggets backcourt of Jamal Murray and Harris struggled to score this game. Murray and Harris combined for 16 points on 6/19 shooting.
There is not much to say about Dort that has not already been said, he has been great on both ends this season and has been consistent enough to show that this improvement is legit and not just a hot streak.
My favorite stat from this game is that Dort surpassed his total made threes from last season (30) tonight in just the 13th game of the season. That statistic puts things into perspective as to just how crazy Dort’s shooting has been thus far.
After a slow start, Darius Bazley picked it up a bit as the game progressed and finished with 12 points with two blocks. Bazley has been struggling a bit lately and has seemed to be out of rhythm. There were even a few possessions early on where you could tell that Bazley was second guessing himself and being too hesitant with his outside shooting.
But, Bazley was able to overcome this slow start and find a groove after the first quarter. Bazley has been inconsistent with his performances which is expected from a second year player; Bazley will have good and bad nights on the court. Bazley’s performance tonight was encouraging.
In four starts this season, Isaiah Roby has been really impressive. Roby filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists. Roby’s passing skills continue to impress and it gives the team another weapon they can use.
With Al Horford out, the Thunder did not have anybody on their roster who could put up a fight against Jokic and he finished with an easy 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Jokic has always historically dominated the Thunder but Steven Adams used to make it difficult for him with his physicality. In tonight’s game, Jokic was able to walk to his spots and he never seemed to get out of first gear.
With that being said, it is unfair to criticize Roby for getting owned by Jokic. Nikola is a Top 10 player who can dissect elite defenses with his scoring and passing. I like the fact that Roby never backed down from the challenge and he was able to snag a couple of steals on post ups due to his aggressiveness.
A blow-out loss like this is demoralizing but there are a few bright spots that can be taken away from this lopsided loss. In tonight’s example, the bright spot is that the four young starters all played well individually.
Next Game: The Thunder travels to LA to play the Clippers on Friday night.