The Slide Continues as Thunder Falls in Denver
Oklahoma City’s losing streak reached four games on Thursday night in Denver. The Thunder again started strong, then faltered down the stretch — with the Nuggets walking out with a 102-94 victory.
Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points for the Thunder, but it was an effort void of many positives for OKC. The team now falls to 4-7 on the season, 0-5 in the Northwest Division, and 0-6 against Western Conference opponents.
Let’s dive in.
More Late Game Issues
Stop me if you’ve heard this before — the Thunder couldn’t close. The score was tied 75-75 headed into the fourth quarter, then Denver outscored OKC by a 27-19 margin over the next 12 minutes. That’s your ball game.
Carmelo Anthony shot 3/5 in the fourth, Russell Westbrook was 1/6, and Paul George was 0/1. George’s disappearance is most mystifying, as he played the entire quarter and mustered only one field goal attempt. All while Russ took a number of bad shots on a night he couldn’t buy a bucket.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, the Thunder now has a grand total of three assisted field goals in crunch time this season. The offense dying is why OKC has lost every close game, and it was certainly the case again versus Denver.
Russell Westbrook was bad
Westbrook is often beyond reproach, but he simply wasn’t very good against the Nuggets. He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists — shooting 6/22 from the floor and 1/6 from downtown. The recent free throw mystery also continued, as he shot 0/3 from the stripe.
Russ wrapped up the evening at -9, and again appeared frustrated and disjointed. He was even replaced as the designated shooter for technical free throws, as Paul George did the honors for the Thunder tonight.
Navigating uncharted waters with a new roster was always going to be most difficult for Westbrook, but the team will go as he goes. He has to be better.
Paul George was there, I think
Paul George had a stat line of 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals — shooting 6/14 in 43 minutes. He attempted just four shots from downtown, and was 0/4 in the mid-range. As mentioned above, he only took one shot in the final 12 minutes of play.
George got his lone three to drop around the 2:10 mark in the second quarter, and followed it up with a defensive rebound and a driving bucket on the Thunder’s next possession. The quick 5-0 run forced a Denver timeout, but the offense moved away from PG when play resumed.
As George continues searching for his place on offense, his teammates and Billy Donovan alike need to realize when it’s time to feed him. Building some momentum earlier in the game may keep him more involved down the stretch.
Carmelo Anthony led the Thunder with 28 points on 10/20 shooting — 6/10 from downtown. He ate up a few possessions on some longer twos that didn’t go down, but shot really well from deep in catch-and-shoot situations. After a couple brutal outings in a row, he bounced back and carried the Thunder offensively all night.
As for the milestone — at the 4:50 mark of the second quarter, Melo hit a three from the left wing and passed Allen Iverson for 24th on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list. The play:
- Per Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman, Steven Adams suffered a calf contusion and will be evaluated tomorrow. He came up gimpy in the fourth quarter, and Jerami Grant closed the game at the center position.
- For the second straight game, the Thunder was absolutely torched by the opposing bench. The Nuggets bench pitched in 49 points, including 21 from Emmanuel Mudiay — who shot 8/10 and 4/4 from long distance. Will Barton was a +20 in his 31 minutes.
- Andre Roberson played 36 minutes and finished as the only Thunder player with a positive plus-minus. He was a +3 and was absolutely everywhere for the OKC defense. Final stat line of 4 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a block and a steal.
- Billy Donovan went with a crunch time lineup of Westbrook-Felton-George-Melo-Grant. We now know Steven Adams was hobbled with a calf contusion, but still an interesting personnel decision in the game’s most important minutes. Roberson should have been at the two.
- Nikola Jokic scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds — but dealt with foul trouble in the first half. He had four points through two quarters, and OKC failed to capitalize.
- The Thunder led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, and started 8/13 from the floor. Back-to-back games that the team has looked great immediately after the tip, and then progressively gotten worse.
- OKC was 7/14 from the line — something is going on with all that.
- The Thunder managed just 16 assists, compared to 27 for the Nuggets.
Quick turnaround — Clippers are in OKC for an 8 PM CT tip on Friday night.