The Oklahoma City Thunder (41-25) got off to a rough start in their second game of the bubble restart, and despite their best efforts to force overtime, the Denver Nuggets (44-23) were able to come away with the 121-113 victory in the extra period on Monday afternoon.
Offense Struggles to Find Flow
Right out of the gate, the Thunder offense could not find any rhythm. The defense was so solid on Saturday against the Utah Jazz that the offense just kind of fell in place. The defense was okay for the most part against the Nuggets on Monday, but shots simply were not falling for OKC.
The Thunder could not hit a three to save their lives early, but they ended up finishing 15-of-36 (41.7%). The biggest issue was too many missed shots in the restricted area. Typically a pretty proficient team in the paint, OKC was just 9-for-22 (40.9%) at the rim and 14-of-36 (38.9%) in the paint overall.
Another area that halted any form of rhythm was the number of fouls called in the game. Neither team really had an advantage, although Denver was awarded 8 more free throws, but the consistent whistles meant a constant stopping and starting of the game, and ultimately, OKC could not get any type of regular offense to work.
Despite forcing overtime, the Thunder did not seem to have much of a chance as Denver did what they wanted, and OKC couldn’t score. The Thunder made just 1-of-7 (14.3%) shots, and the inability to get a bucket cost them the game.
SGA Overcomes Rough Start
With the departure of Dennis Schröder from the bubble, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found himself running the point guard more than normal on Monday. He got off to a rocky start, making just one of his first five shots from the field in the first half. He was able to get to the free throw line, but by halftime, he still only had 8 points.
By the middle of the third quarter, SGA had picked up his fifth foul, forcing him to the bench. Billy Donovan gambled and put Shai back into the game early in the fourth quarter, and it ended up paying off.
SGA scored 14 of his 24 points in the final period, and then another 2 in overtime, but he was able to do it despite the risk of fouling out hanging over his head. When Shai entered the game early in the fourth, he appeared to be more focused and it certainly impacted the game as he ultimately helped put OKC in a position to win.
Thunder Player of the Game
Despite playing just 13 minutes, Abdel Nader picks up Thunder Player of the Game because of his efforts off the bench. In his limited play, Nader scored 13 points on 5-of-6 (83.3%) shooting, including 3-of-4 (75.0%) from deep.
Nader appeared to have fallen out of regular rotation based on his lack of play during the scrimmages and the first game, but if he’s able to come in and consistently knock down shots, perhaps he deserves those minutes after all.
Wednesday is Showtime
Next up for the Thunder is a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers (50-15) on Wednesday evening. OKC is 0-3 (0-2 at home, 0-1 on the road) against the Lakers so far this season, but the first two matchups, both in November, were decided by 5 and 3 points before LA blew out the Thunder by 15 in OKC in January.
Tip-off for that game is set for 5:30 PM CT, and it will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.