By Chad Waters
The Oklahoma City Thunder started its five-game road trip with a 119-101 loss at Denver on Tuesday night. The Nuggets (7-7) began to pull away in the second quarter and stretched it in the third before the Thunder (6-7) made a little run of their own. However, Denver responded by building its lead back up to 26 and allowing the starters to sit out the entire fourth quarter.
Thunder center Al Horford missed his third-straight game after he and his wife recently welcomed a new daughter, Nova. Starting in place of Horford has been second-year center Isaiah Roby, who had one of the toughest tasks a big man can have in the NBA. Roby matched up with Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who is averaging a triple-double this season. The Thunder tried everything to stop the Joker, but he was a handful for Roby, who was giving up four inches and more than 50 pounds. Jokic finished the night with 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in just 28 minutes before taking a seat on the bench in the final quarter. The Thunder team as a whole was overpowered by the Nuggets in the post, as Denver outscored OKC in second-chance points 32-3.
Roby still played well on the offensive end, scoring 10 points to go along with nine rebounds, and four steals. In his three starts this season, Roby has averaged 11.7 points on 46 percent shooting, with 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. OKC’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 14 points, seven assists, and five rebounds while Darius Bazley added 12 points.
In what has been the case all season, a positive note for the Thunder in Denver was the terrific play on both ends from Luguentz Dort. Dort limited Denver guard Jamal Murray to just five points on 2-of-10 shooting. And unlike last season, Dort’s offensive production is keeping pace with his defense. Dort kept the Thunder close early on after scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points in the first half, finishing 8-of-11 overall and 3-of-6 from 3-point range. After only having made 30 made threes across his rookie season, he has now surpassed that through 13 games during his second-year campaign. The threes have been efficient as well, with Dort firing at a 43.2 percent clip after shooting just 29.7 percent from distance last season.
Next up, the Thunder face the Clippers (10-4) in Los Angeles on Friday and again on Sunday.