The Oklahoma City Thunder (17-10) fell on the road in Denver on Friday night, watching as Nikola Jokic dropped 24 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals to lead the Nuggets (19-9) to a 109-98 victory. Paul George led the way for OKC with 32 points — 26 of which came after halftime — but the Thunder could never quite climb out of an early 12-point deficit.
The Nuggets came out blistering hot from beyond the arc, hitting 7-of-10 in the opening frame to counter 17 first quarter points from Steven Adams. Though they cooled in the second, a sputtering Thunder offense (7/24 FG in 2Q) allowed the Nuggets to take a 60-52 advantage into halftime. Adams, Russell Westbrook, and Jerami Grant were able to score in double-figures to keep the Thunder hanging around.
George (who scored six first half points) came alive in the third quarter, scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting to bring the Thunder roaring back. A George three-pointer cut Denver’s lead to three at the 6:21 mark of the third — but as was the case all night, the Nuggets continually had an answer to every Thunder run. That, coupled with an absolutely atrocious night at the free throw line for OKC, allowed Denver to head into the final quarter with an 82-76 lead.
Though George shot 4-of-8 in the fourth and brought the Thunder back to within three with 3:20 remaining, the Nuggets kept OKC at arm’s distance in the final frame — answering every big bucket with points of their own. They shot 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) in the final frame and finished the game on a 10-2 run over the final 3:20 of play.
0-2. The Thunder are now 0-2 on the season against their Northwest Division rivals. Denver has held OKC below 100 points in both games — and did it this time with two starters missing. Not a good look for a Thunder team that has suddenly lost three of the last four games.
Monster Adams. Lost in the loss — particularly with Jokic having such an outstanding game — is how dominant Steven Adams was. Big Kiwi scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first quarter and finished his night with 26 points and 14 rebounds — 11 of them being of the offensive variety. He ended up shooting 12-of-20 and got pretty much whatever he wanted on the block. Tough to waste such an effort from the big man.
The Free Throws. The Thunder lost by 11 and missed 12 free throws on the evening, going 17-of-29 from the stripe. This team is unreasonably bad from the line and it cost them dearly tonight in Denver.
The Other Guys. Five Nuggets scored in double-figures, including Jokic (24), Jamal Murray (19), Juancho Hernangomez (16), Torrey Craig (15), and Monte Morris (14). They shot 50.6 percent from the floor and knocked down 11-of-34 from beyond the arc.
Bad Russ. Westbrook’s struggles continued in this one, as he posted 13 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals — but shot just 5-of-15 from the floor and turned the ball over four times. He was just 1-of-8 from the floor after halftime, scoring a total of three points. He’s now shooting just 37 percent from the floor and 23 percent from deep over the last five games.
After Halftime P: After a non-existent first half, George carried the Thunder in the final 24 minutes — scoring 26 of his game-high 32 points after halftime. He shot 10-of-15 over that stretch and almost had enough in the tank to get the Thunder over the hump.
Quick Turnaround: Right back in action Saturday night in Oklahoma City. The Thunder take on the Clippers at 8:00 PM CST on Fox Sports Oklahoma.