The half-hobbled Denver Nuggets got struck by the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight and fell even further behind in the race for the 8th with a 106-121 loss.
The Nuggets were without their star Nikola Jokic and glue guy Gary Harris tonight and it was apparent from the start. And while its unfair to try to scape goat any one player for the sluggish start , I have a feeling there are going to be many Nuggets fans who will point the finger towards Jusuf Nurkic, who is currently being shopped around the league right now.
While being without the ever-efficient Jokic and Harris, none of the boys seemed to play inspired tonight after a beating from the San Antonio Spurs, especially Emmanuel Mudiay, who was scoreless though four quarters. Gallo was visibly aggressive, but not very effective in the first and shot 2/8 from the field. The rest of the offense looked tired and out of sync and almost every shot seemed forced and uncomfortable for Denver. It was reminiscent of the beginning of the year when the Jokic/Nurkic lineup was in effect. No one played extremely confident, at least from the fans perspective at any point during the 1st except Wilson Chandler. Still with all of the negative proponents in the equation, Denver was able to keep it a tight game at 22-24.
Wilson Chandler continued his reign of scoring in the second and was able to keep getting shots at will. It was apparent early in the 2nd after his wide open 3 in the corner that his shot was feeling good, even if his body language suggested fatigue, both mentally and physically. Wilson alone, like much of the early parts of the season, carried the team offensively. But the Thunder wasn’t going to let the Nuggets get anything easy tonight.
They say basketball is a game of runs and the momentum shifted for Denver in the 2nd as the boys started playing with more energy and passion. Although the Nuggets are sick and tired of the injury bug, the silver lining to the missing bodies is that Juancho Hernangomez and Jamal Murray got minutes in tonight’s game against a decent Thunder team. It was nice to see Denver’s future contribute to more than just the warmth of the bench tonight- even if it was just momentarily.
At the half, your Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder were tied up with a 60 piece. Much of the team stats were very similar. The only noticeable difference was the shooting percentage from beyond the arc, the Nuggets stood out hitting for an uncharacteristically efficient 50% while Oklahoma was only at 33%. The looming fear that I couldn’t shake in my mind was that they would start settling for outside shots and become content. The Nuggets, who aren’t a statically good shooting three-point team, seem to have built some of these unhealthy habits when coming out from the half, fortunately that didn’t happen, but it didn’t matter.
The 3rd shaped up to be pretty uneventful until about the 4 minute mark when OKC opened up the lead to 13 points. As stated above, the Nuggets have had issues in the 3rd quarter coming out ready to play, this is when the opponents seem to find the holes in the Denver Nuggets game and really exploit them.
In the 4th quarter, the Thunder took advantage of the sloppy guard play that plagued the quarter. Unnecessary turnovers and forced shots really sealed the deal for Denver’s fate tonight. The Nuggets always seem to have run left in them late in the 3rd or early in the 4th quarter, however with so many opportunities given to them, the Thunder made sure that wasn’t going to be the case tonight. Chris Marlow really described Westbrook‘s play late in games in such an impeccable fashion. He, “gets jiggy with it.” Couldn’t have said it better myself Chris.
With the Nuggets being at the epicenter of trade talks in recent days, my hopes are that Denver won’t mentally check out and lose what positive momentum we’ve built upon this season. Young teams are going to have their ups and downs, and much like growing pains, it makes the transformation stage, at times, hard to bear. Talks of tanking the season should be over with, as this team has true potential. Don’t forget just a few short games ago when we were playing good just how exciting this team can be.
Whether it’s the player’s checking out, coach losing the team in the locker room, or a combination of the two, its detrimental that we take every game as a potential to grown and learn. Not following the mood swings and ups and downs that come with the game will be must if we want to push for the future.
The Nuggets look to break the now 5 game losing streak against the Indiana Pacers next week across the pond. The Nuggets will need this long break to regroup, recover, and re-strategize. The NBA season is full of twists and turns. If we can take the losses as lessons and grow as a team, we can still make some noise this season.
Do you think there will be any unfamiliar faces in Denver in the coming weeks? Hit us up on twitter @DigInDenver with your answers.