Sometimes you can just sort of sense when Oklahoma City is overmatched. The Magic game in Orlando. Boston at home. And definitely tonight against Denver. Ten minutes in, you just could kind of feel like the Thunder was going to have to hang on for dear life to stay close. It hasn’t happened all that often this year, but sometimes you’re just in over your head a bit.
Denver started the game 1-11 from floor as a team, but yet trailed only by two during that stretch. You knew that the shots the Nuggets were missing we going to start dropping and when they did, things were going to get rough for OKC. The fact the Thunder didn’t take advantage of Denver’s poor start really set the pace for this one.
Of course there are the typical (and good) excuses. Second of a back-to-back. On the road. Playing a good team. Playing a good team that is 10-1 at home. There’s not a lot of shame in losing this one. Denver is a force in the West people. Of course you’d love to have seen a closer game with a real chance to win, but sometimes you’re just outclassed. And that was absolutely the case tonight.
I’m definitely not upset about it. We all know the Thunder’s going through a tough stretch of games here. And we all know this is a team that’s young and building. I think at times we forget that very easily. As long as this team takes care of the ones it should and maybe wins a few it shouldn’t, things are going to be alright for this young group. Yeah, some guys plays poorly, the offense was poopy and in general, the team was flat.
But don’t forget, this was against the Denver Nuggets, one of the very best teams in the league. Oklahoma City isn’t there yet and you shouldn’t pretend it is. The Thunder’s got a little bit to go before you should really be upset about these kind of losses.
And you know what? Honestly, had OKC gotten a key offensive rebound here, a bucket there or a little 5-0 run somewhere, the Thunder could have made this somewhat interesting in the fourth. Denver left the door open for a Thunder comeback, but OKC never seized the opportunity. One sequence that really summed it up: Down 11 and after a big stop on a Carmelo Anthony drive, Kevin Durant corralled a loose ball and looked to have numbers heading up the court. As he turned upcourt, he accidentally dribbled it off James Harden’s foot and the ball rolled out of bounds. Anthony quickly hit a jumper and pumped the lead back to 13. That kind of night.
- I really saw the last two minutes of the first half as the most critical moments for Oklahoma City. The Thunder were down 10 at that point and those couple minutes were going to determine whether or not the Thunder was going to have a chance to be in it in the fourth. Instead of closing the half and cutting into a 10-point Nugget lead, Denver extended their lead to 15. And really that was that.
- Hey guess what Denver? OKC won the REAL battle. Kevin Durant’s 32 > ‘Melo’s 31. WHAT NOW SCORING LEADER?
- I like to think I’m rarely That Fan, but how bad was that officiating in the third? OKC could not get a call. The over-the-back on Kenyon Martin that went as a foul on Russell Westbrook. The jersey pull by J.R. Smith on KD. And more and more. It just seemed to really add up.
- 21 turns for the Thunder tonight. Combine that with 39 percent from the floor and you know you’re in for a toughy.
- A few things about Westbrook’s (14 points, 5-15 shooting, six assists, six rebounds, four turns) night: 1) His first 3 attempt. He had an open look, but he also had a baseline drive to the rim. I feel like Westbrook defers to the jumper too much. He’s a dynamic driving player. He draws fouls, he can beat almost anyone and he can create. He hit a few jumpshots, but I like him going to the rim more. 2) You can tell when the offense stalls he tries to shoulder the load. He’s a good offensive player, but he tries too hard. He’ll miss five shots in a hurry and that’s why his percentages get so messed up. When he plays within the flow of the offense, he’s actually a really, really good offensive player. I realize some aren’t happy with him and by no means do I feel fine about a 5-15 night with four turns, but I continue to feel like these are the pains we deal with while we watch growth. Maybe that’s just me.
- Does Krstic look uncomfortable with his jumper to anyone else? Maybe it’s a confidence thing, but it just doesn’t look quite right to me. Maybe that’s why he had just one point tonight.
- I found it interesting that Jeff Green drew the assignment on ‘Melo and Durant guarded Kenyon Martin. I actually thought Uncle Jeff did a decent job on Carmelo. But let’s face it, Anthony is just about impossible to defend. It’s just a matter or whether or not he makes his shot. He’s an awesome offensive player.
- Enough of the Birdman’s crap. Seriously, I’m over it. The posing, the posturing, the taunting. It’s stupid. It’s annoying. It’s just something I don’t care to see from someone that blocks a shot every now and again.
- Why doesn’t Jeff Green ever jump into his defender when he’s got them up in the air with his grandpa head fake?
- Serge Ibaka rebounds too much on his athleticism and not enough on technique. He’s trying, but he’s either looking to put a body on someone while the ball is coming off the rim or he’s just jumping at the miss and leaving a man untouched.
- How quiet were the Denver fans tonight? I didn’t hear any music or sound effects and I sure didn’t really hear any crowd noise. Strange.
- I hate to play this card but you take out a crap second quarter (30-17), OKC scored four more points than Denver. It’s pointless, but it’s true.
- Joe put it perfectly in the comments: “Possessions are the currency of basketball. Without them you can not score period. If you give them away with turns you get what we got. End of story.”
I salute OKC for forcing Denver to keep its starters in the whole way. The Thunder could have folded it up and just walked out 20-point losers, but these guys kept fighting and scratching to at least keep you watching. You just felt like a Durant 3, a stop and another basket and boom, we’re right in this. And that sequence just never came. It’s part of learning to win and it’s also part of playing an elite team on their home floor. Such is life in this league.
With the loss OKC drops to 12-11 and loses two straight for the first time in over a month (Nov. 3). With another tough game coming Wednesday, it won’t be easy to right the ship.
Next up is Dallas Wednesday night on national television. So far, OKC is 1-0 on ESPN. Good sign, right?