Well, that’s pretty much exactly how I envisioned this going down. A couple of runs by the Thunder to stay “in it” but never really completely being “in it.” The Nuggets needed this game badly and they played like it, taking down OKC 112-99.
But you have to credit the Thunder for hanging tough at times. There were a couple of points where the game teetered on stepping into blowoutsville, but OKC got some buckets and at least pushed the Nuggets to the end. The largest lead Denver had was 19, but the game was in the 10-14 range most of the way.
This was game number four in five days and there were definitely some tired legs on the Thunder side. But OKC stayed semi-close because of the free throw line. The Thunder hit 30-32 from the stripe and they had to, because the jumpers absolutely were not falling. The Thunder shot 40 percent, hit 3-13 from three and only made something like nine shots outside of the paint altogether.
It was pretty evident early that the Thunder was going to have trouble. The Nuggets were back-cutting and getting easy looks in the paint. It seemed like probably 20 or so of Denver’s 31 first quarter points came on layups and dunks (they shot 12-17 in the first; OKC was 8-22). The interior defense and the rotations just weren’t there. I don’t know if it was hangover from the night before or what, but the team just looked a bit flat. OKC turned it over six times alone in the first quarter en route to 16 overall, but that sort of stuff put the Thunder in catch-up mode early. And it didn’t help that they couldn’t hit a jumper to save their life.
But per usual, the Thunder went on a solid 17-5 run to close to within five in the second quarter. OKC turned up the defensive heat and started running a little more and getting easy looks. That’s what you do when you can’t make an open jump shot – you get out in transition and try and get easy looks and layups. Earl Watson – who had probably his best game of the season – key a lot of it, taking every outlet and every inbound pass and ran with it. He pressed the pace and it led to some good shots. Keep Reading…