Denver Nuggets 113, Oklahoma City Thunder 107 (OT): Three Takeaways
Now on to the real thing.
Although it took an extra five minutes, the Denver Nuggets used hot 3-point shooting to end their 2021-22 preseason with a 113-107 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver sat most of its main rotation players on the second night of a back-to-back, providing ample playing time for the youngest players on the roster.
3-point shooting was the story of the first quarter, as both teams were hot from downtown. Oklahoma City hit seven 3-pointers, while Denver shot 6-of-15 from beyond the arc in the opening frame. Will Barton scored 10 points in the first quarter to lead the way and keep the Nuggets in the game early.
The second quarter was more of the same as neither team gained a clear advantage. Markus Howard led the second unit with eight points in the first half as Denver continued to hit regularly from beyond the arc to secure a 56-50 lead heading into the halftime break.
Both teams cooled from beyond the arc, but Oklahoma City was able to consistently generate quality looks inside the paint, which helped regain the lead early in the second half. The Thunder had 34 points in the paint after three quarters, which helped fuel an 83-77 lead for Oklahoma City heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter came down to the final seconds, as Howard, who dropped eleven points in the final frame to keep it close, tied the game at 102 with just over three seconds. Two turnovers by both teams in the final seconds sent the game to overtime.
Howard continued to fire away in the extra frame, knocking down consecutive threes to give Denver a 108-104 lead. After Oklahoma City got within one, Howard hit his ninth 3-pointer of the night to push the lead back to four with 29 seconds remaining, which helped seal the deal.
Here are three takeaways from the final preseason game.
Barton finding a rhythm
It didn’t take long for Denver’s longest tenured player to put his stamp on Thursday’s game. Barton used a blend of 3-point shooting and aggressive drives to the rim to drop 14 points in the first half on 6-of-9 shooting from the field.
Due to an ankle injury suffered during training camp, Barton was limited to just two preseason games to prepare for the regular season. However, the 30-year-old looked comfortable in both games and looks ready to assume a larger offensive role to begin the season with Jamal Murray out.
Same plan, different result
One night earlier in Oklahoma City, the Nuggets couldn’t buy a bucket from beyond the arc. Denver could only muster 99 points in Wednesday’s loss and shot 11-of-44 from downtown.
24 hours later and the Nuggets couldn’t miss from deep, hitting 11 threes in the first half alone (on 20 attempts). Denver cooled down a bit in the second half, but ultimately finished 21-of-48 from beyond the arc Thursday, which was still a welcomed sight after the Nuggets struggled to convert from deep in the first four preseason games.
In a game in which Nuggets head coach Michael Malone didn’t play the majority of the team’s starters, Howard made the most of his increased playing time.
Howard knocked down nine 3-pointers and showcased his ability to fill up the scoreboard in a hurry, ultimately finishing as the leading scorer in the game with 31 in his 31 minutes of action. The second-year guard simply took over in overtime to will the Nuggets to a preseason victory.
The Nuggets open the regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 20 against the Phoenix Suns.