The Oklahoma City Thunder finished their third of four installments of the 2021-22 NBA preseason against the Denver Nuggets. Denver is among the favorites to contend for the throne of the Western Conference this season.
Tonight, Thunder fans got a chance to see Derrick Favors for the first time in the preseason. Favors started for OKC tonight along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Luguentz Dort, and rookie sensation Josh Giddey. This lineup could be Oklahoma City’s regular-season starting lineup as the season begins next week.
The Thunder started the game strong. Not surprisingly strong, but still enough for you to notice they came to play. Bazley, in particular, was fluid in the first quarter with 13 points, shooting 100% from the floor. The Thunder shot the ball well during the first at 47% from the floor and 42% from three. They closed the quarter on a 13-to-4 run and led at the end of the first 29-23. Denver looked sluggish in the first quarter. Nikola Jokic had it going early with nine first-quarter points on 4-of-5 shooting. OKC went on an early 7-to-3 run in the second quarter, pushing their lead to 10 by the 9-minute mark.
Denver started to wake up after being behind by as many as 13 in the second quarter. They cut the lead to seven points by the middle of the second quarter behind Jokic, who began distributing the ball with two quick assists to add to his then 12 points. After a timeout at the 6-minute mark, Denver switched their defensive scheme to a 2-2-1 zone, and the effect on OKC was minimal but caused the second unit to falter.
Derrick Favors was solid during the first half, scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Bazley led the Thunder in scoring with 14 points at the half, which helped Oklahoma City maintain a five-point lead at halftime, 53-48. Oklahoma City would add to that lead early in the third. Denver missed five straight shots in the quarter while OKC was in sync on an 11-to-2 burst for a 15 point lead midway through the third. By the end of the third quarter, OKC emptied the bench. The Thunder had a lead of 18, but some late foul trouble caused Denver to cut it to 12 to end the quarter.
The Thunder outscored the Nuggets 31-24 in the third quarter, leaving the fourth quarter open for bench players to get some much-needed minutes. Which quickly led to a Thunder timeout after Denver scored seven points in less than two minutes. However, Giddey would rejoin the Thunder squad, and OKC kept the Nuggets at bay after Denver inserted Jokic and the remaining starters during the fourth. It was clear Denver wanted a shot at winning this game. However, Giddey was instrumental in controlling the Thunder offense. He showed out in the fourth after being somewhat quiet during the first three quarters. Denver cut into the lead, coming as close as five. However, the Thunder regrouped on a 9-2 run to win their first preseason game, 108-99. These two teams will do it again tomorrow night at the BOK Center in Tulsa at 7 pm.