Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost for the fifth consecutive times against the Denver Nuggets, 112-121 the final score.
During the first quarter, the Thunder shot the ball well, but that was about it for the positives to take away. Oklahoma City fouled too much, gave up too many offensive rebounds, and ended the quarter with five turnovers. Despite all of it, the Thunder closed the first quarter down only three points.
The second quarter was even worst. The Thunder didn’t have much offensive flow, and also thanks to Denver’s defense the team was unable to score consistently. However, the problem hasn’t been only on offense. Oklahoma City struggled on the defensive end. The Nuggets scored thirty-five points in the second quarter and took thirteen points to lead into half time.
The Thunder battled in the third quarter but weren’t unable to cut the lead. In fact, if it wasn’t for the halfcourt bucket at the buzzer by George, Oklahoma City would have trailed by sixteen points instead of thirteen.
In the last twelve minutes, OKC started to put an extra effort on the defensive end. Thanks to the important impact of Nerlens Noel on Nikola Jokic, and a better offense, the Thunder were able to even take the lead, 100-97 with six minutes left. However, that’s was basically it. The Nuggets regained control of the game, Noel fouled out, and Oklahoma City wasn’t able to stay in the game due to many missed shots and costly late turnovers.
- Nerlens Noel, solid
Nerlens Noel, as crazy as it might sound, has been the main reason why the Thunder were able to come back in the game in the fourth quarter. He didn’t have an impressive stat-line but he provided some toughness on the defensive end, and most importantly, Noel was able to limit Jokic offensively. When Noel fouled out, the Nuggets went on the final run which closed the game. Based on the matchup I think Noel should see more minutes from here on.
- Paul George, bad shooting night
When Paul George doesn’t perform well on offense, the Thunder obviously struggle. Yesterday was no exception. George finished the game with twenty-five points, although he was perfect from the FT line, he shot 7-24 from the floor 3-14 from behind the arc. With these shooting numbers, it gets really hard for OKC to win games. Nevertheless, George contributed to other aspects of the game. In fact, he finished with eight rebounds, seven assists, and six steals.
- Second unit, too short
Despite the addition of Morris to the second unit, the Thunder still don’t have consistent backups. If Morris is getting better little by little, and Noel had a solid night, this can not be said for Dennis Schröder, or Nader, or Felton. Obviously, Oklahoma City can’t expect much from Abdel and Raymond, but since the All-Star break, Dennis has been quite bad.
In the past three games, Schröder shot 30% from the floor and 16% from behind the arc. With this short second unit, the Thunder need everyone at the top in order to succeed against really good teams.
- Free Throw, same old problem
Not much to add to this. The Thunder shot 16-25 from the free-throw line, that’s a no-good 64%. Players have to do better from the line, especially Russell Westbrook (4-8 last night).
- Tough Schedule, get ready
Oklahoma City is 1-2 in the past three games, all close ones, and all against playoff teams. From here on it won’t get better. In fact, the Thunder have the toughest schedule to end the season. The team will have to play at his top level every night now because in a blink of an eye, and with a couple of bad losses, the Thunder might find themselves in the middle of the pack fighting for a good playoff spot.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be back at home on Thursday night to face the Philadelphia 76ers, another important matchup. Tip-off 7 pm CT.
Photos by Garrett Elwood and Bart Young| Getty Images