Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder Falls Behind Early to Nuggets, Fails to Complete Comeback

Zachary Low


Game #19 - Nuggets - Recap Stats.png

The Oklahoma City fell behind in the first half Saturday night, and despite their best efforts in the second half, they could not complete the comeback, losing to the Denver Nuggets 105-98.

The Thunder and the Nuggets both got off to a rough start as they each showed evidence of the fact that they were playing in the second game of a back-to-back. Denver jumped out to a 6-2 lead before OKC went on an 8-0 run, which included an emphatic slam dunk from Jerami Grant.

After that, the Nuggets outscored the Thunder 27-13 behind 13-23 (56.5%) from the field, including 5-9 (55.6%) from the three. Meanwhile, OKC shot just 8-25 (29.2%) from the floor and an abysmal 2-13 (15.4%) from beyond the arc. Paul George led the way for the Thunder early with 8 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals, but at the end of the first, Denver led Oklahoma City 33-23.

Denver continued with their hot hand to start the second quarter while OKC’s offense could not seem to buy a bucket. The Nuggets closed the half shooting 50% from the floor and 41.2% from three as they pushed their lead to 25 at one point. The Thunder finished the half making just 29.2% of their field goal attempts while shooting 2-19 (10.5%) from three. At the half, Denver led 63-42.

The Thunder came out in the second half with plenty of energy, but intensity without execution is worthless. Oklahoma City struggled to score early in the third quarter, and Denver maintained their 20+ lead for more than half of the period. Then, little by little, the Thunder began to work their way back into the game. At the end of the third, the deficit was down 13 and the Nuggets led the Thunder 79-66.

The fourth quarter started off rough as Paul George was whistled for a foul and immediately received a technical after an overreaction to the call. Even still, OKC kept fighting, and with a little over 10 minutes left in the game, George hit a 3 to cut the deficit to single digit for the first time since early second quarter. The Thunder managed to get within 5 with 90 seconds left, but the same poor shot selection that hindered OKC earlier hurt them at the end, and the Nuggets left the ‘Peake with a 105-98 win over the Thunder.

Thunder Player of the Game

Jerami Grant was one of the few bright spots for the Thunder tonight. Grant finished with 13 points on 5-11 (45.5%) from the floor, including 2-5 (40%) from 3, as well as 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in 31 minutes of play. While Grant didn’t exactly stuff the box score, he showed up in a number of clutch situations, and his energy was integral to the Thunder having a chance at a comeback.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • STOP SHOOTING THREES: For whatever reason, the Thunder continues to fall in love with the 3-ball. Despite being the league’s worst 3-point shooting team, making just 31.1% of attempts, they continue to jack up 31+ attempts a night. Tonight was especially bad as OKC shot 9-39 (23.1%), which ties for the 3rd-worst percentage from behind the arc all season long. The Thunder is 6-7 when shooting 28+ threes, but they are 6-0 when shooting 27 or fewer. Stats don’t alway tell the story, but it’s pretty clear what they can do to improve their chance at winning when it come to perimeter play.
  • Free Throw Woes Return: After a solid week of free throw shooting last week (56-64, 87.5%), the Thunder came back down to earth this week (50-78, 64%).  OKC is finally over 70% on the season as a team at 70.5%, but that ranks them 29th in the league. Simply put, close games will be lost if the Thunder cannot figure out free throw shooting. Tonight, OKC was 15-23 (65.2%), and while you cannot expect a team to make every single free throw, that’s 8 points that could have been, and the Thunder lost by 7.
  • Russ Has To Be Better: Russell Westbrook is the undeniable leader of this team, and as the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he has to play at a high level every single tonight, or he will face incredible scrutiny. Tonight was no different. Westbrook was not the only reason for the Thunder’s loss tonight, but his lackadaisical defensive effort at times and his poor shot selection down the stretch, especially from three, were major contributors to OKC’s inability to complete a comeback. In 40 minutes, Russ shot 6-23 (23.1%) from the field, including 1-12 (8.3%) from three, and 3-7 (42.9%) from the free throw line. He did finish with 12 assists and 10 rebounds to round out a triple-double, but he has to be better in clutch situations. The Thunder need that from him, especially when they cannot get it from anyone else.

Finally, Some Rest

After playing 3 games in 4 days, the Oklahoma City Thunder gets a 3-day break before hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. The Cavs are owners of one of the NBA’s worst records at 4-14, but they knocked off the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets in back-to-back nights in their last two games. They host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday before heading to Oklahoma City. The game will tip at 7 PM and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.

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