5 Rebounds for Andre Roberson in just 13 minutes of action
9 Combined assists for Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant
10 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka on the night in addition to eight points
10 Blocks by the Thunder, including three by Serge Ibaka
16-8 The Thunder’s advantage in second chance points on the night
22-12 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the Nuggets in the fourth quarter
30 Points for Kevin Durant in 27 minutes of action, including 15-for-16 shooting from the free throw line
Jan. 9th, 2014
DENVER – When things aren’t going right for the Thunder on offense and defense, the team doesn’t panic, it tries to work together to fix the areas of slippage.
In Thursday night’s 101-88 loss on the road to the Denver Nuggets, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team made some strides back to where it wants to be defensively, but struggled on offense to find a rhythm. Shooting just 35.3 percent from the field with only 11 assists, the Thunder didn’t see the ball fall through the net enough to make this one close as the Nuggets used a burst at the end of the second quarter and a 9-0 run in the middle of the third quarter to break the game open.
On offense the ball was a bit sticky and the Thunder didn’t quite get the flow and pace that it wanted. On defense, the Thunder allowed the Nuggets to knock down 14 three-pointers, although many were contested looks in isolation situations. Regardless, the Thunder knows that it has the ability to be better on both ends of the floor. All that it has to do is use its experience with one another to get back to playing true Thunder basketball for 48 minutes.
“We did a good job of controlling the pace for the most part, but tonight we didn’t get a lot of good looks offensively,” Brooks said. “We didn’t move the ball well enough and took a lot of tough shots. Our timing wasn’t where it needs to be and we missed a lot of threes.”
“Everything that happened tonight is correctable, which is good,” Brooks explained. “Everything that we did wrong tonight, we can go back and get better from and make sure we can correct it going into our next game.”
Kevin Durant led the way for the Thunder with 30 points in 27 minutes of action, including a 15-for-16 mark from the free throw line. While the Thunder also got double-digit contributions from Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher, the offense as a whole didn’t create enough easy baskets on its own with ball movement and player movement.
On the defensive end, the Thunder held Denver to a fairly low shooting percentage, but Durant, veteran forward Nick Collison and their teammates know that they can bring a stronger, tougher mindset than it did tonight. Being the aggressor and forcing its opponent to play the style the Thunder wants is how the team will be successful moving forward, ultimately forcing turnovers and getting stops that lead to easy offense.
“We need to come into these games with the idea that that is how we’re going to win the game - that we’re going to be really good defensively,” Collison said. “I don’t think we impacted them defensively tonight the way that we’re capable of.”
“There’s a certain feel that we have when we’re really engaged, that I don’t think we had the last two games,” Collison continued. “That should be where we try to get back to, playing at a higher level at that end.”
Even though it is just a two-game slide for the Thunder, team leaders like Collison are crucially important to the squad’s ability to sharpen up and correct their mistakes. The continuity built on the roster in Oklahoma City has created institutional confidence that if the Thunder brings the right effort, mindset and execution for all four quarters each night, it can figure out how to play its brand of basketball on the fly even between games.
There are core tenets to the Thunder’s gameplan that it didn’t hit on tonight in Denver, but the team knows that if it dedicates itself in the film room and the practice floor that come game time, it will be able to make improvements. By sticking together and staying true to the basketball philosophy that has gotten it to this point, Collison and the Thunder can get back on track.
“Relying on who we are and not getting away from who we are,” Collison explained. “We feel like we’re a good defensive team. Not feeling like we need to reinvent the wheel, but just tighten up what we do.”
“That’s the good thing about our team, we have had so much continuity, we know ourselves pretty well,” Collison continued. “We know when things aren’t going well and what we can do to change them. It’s usually subtle things and just a mindset being a little more focused, a little more juice and a little more energy.”
The Thunder was in striking distance midway through the third quarter, trailing 72-61 with 5:30 remaining in the period when the Nuggets hit three consecutive three-pointers to break the game open for good. The 9-0 run started with a Randy Foye three-pointer, then after a Thunder turnover Evan Fournier hit a three off a JJ Hickson pass. On the next Nuggets possession out of a timeout, Foye hit another three, making it 81-61 Nuggets with 3:27 remaining in the quarter.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Serge Ibaka does a nice job of hustling to run the floor in transition, piercing the defense and getting an easy bucket. Excellent back cut by Kevin Durant and bounce pass from Nick Collison to get an open lane to the rim and draw a foul. Durant hustles the ball up the floor to get a two-for-one opportunity. Collison dives on the floor for a loose ball to get a jump ball. Beautiful drop off pass by Reggie Jackson to Ibaka in the lane to get an easy dunk. Ball pressure on the perimeter forces a Nuggets turnover.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice work by Kendrick Perkins to slap the ball out of his man’s hands, then the Thunder defense forces a difficult shot late in the shot clock. Ibaka stays strong in the paint and fights to get a jump ball. Andre Roberson hustles for a loose offensive ebound and puts it back nicely. Roberson’s perimeter defense then forces the Nuggets into a difficult shot-clock beating heave. Jeremy Lamb’s perimeter defense forces a shot clock violation.
“We need to play a better brand of basketball. That doesn’t mean changing what we do, but we need to do a better job on the offensive end from the start of the possession to the end we need to be better. Our spacing needs to be better, we need to play with more pace, the cuts need to be harder, the ball needs to find the shot more than trying to force it to a player and let him create a shot.” – forward Nick Collison