Denver Nuggets 121-113 Oklahoma City Thunder: Three Takeaways
In what was billed as a potential playoff preview, it was the short-handed Nuggets who edged their Northwest Division rivals in the Thunder in a 121-113 overtime thriller.
"This is an important game...Winning the division is always one of our goals." Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game.
He added jokingly, "To win an overtime game on the road in front of a really tough crowd is always something that we look forward to."
Michael Porter Jr. poured in a career-high 37-points to go along with 12 rebounds while Nikola Jokić powered through with his 13th triple-double of the season to help Denver secure its first win in the NBA restart. The Joker would score 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 10 dimes. The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 24 points and five rebounds.
Here are the takeaways:
Joker erupts in second half and OT
Jokić would only score seven points in the first half. He more than made up for it in the final three quarters of the game. The center exploded for 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting in the second half and overtime to help the Nuggets secure a much-needed win against the Thunder.
For Jokić, it continues his recent dominance over the Thunder. In the previous encounters with OKC, the 25-year-old averaged 30 points, 10.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists on 79.3 percent shooting.
On a night where the Nuggets struggled with their three-point shooting and were missing three starters, it was Jokić’s strong overall play that allowed the team to overcome and secure a victory. He would score eight of the Nuggets’ 12 points in overtime.
"We're missing guys, but we cannot think about it. They're not going to show up [and] immediately we get better," Jokić said. "So we need to work through it [our current situation] and guys are stepping up."
Jokić is also three triple-doubles away from tying Fat Lever’s all-time franchise record of 44.
Banner night for MPJ
Porter Jr. struggled in his second start in the Nuggets’ restart opener but appeared to be back to his best in his third career start.
Porter Jr. would pour in 20 of his 37 points on the night in the opening 24 minutes of action, shooting a sizzling 7 of 9 in the first two quarters. It was two points shy of Carmelo Anthony’s rookie record of 24 points in a half from 2004. One area where the 21-year-old appeared to show progress from Saturday’s loss against the Heat was scoring on easy opportunities. Whether it was a tip-in or an easy cut to the rim, Porter Jr. didn’t force his scoring chances as much as he did against Miami.
Porter Jr. also had a significant impact on the glass and defense, where he also added 12 rebounds, a block and a steal. After the game, the forward discussed taking advantage of additional playing time with Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton III out due to injury.
"This is a big opportunity for me," Porter Jr. said. "Obviously, we can't wait for Will, Gary and Jamal to come back. For me to be in that starting position [while they are out], I've worked really hard so now is a good opportunity for me to show what I can do...I have to advantage of it every night and not have off nights in terms of effort."
Monte steps up big
Monte Morris was another player who bounced back in a big way in Monday’s contest as the point guard had 17 points, four boards and four dimes against the Thunder. His play down the stretch was pivotal in helping the Nuggets rally from six down to force overtime. Morris would score on a floater to give his team a 107-106 lead late in the fourth quarter and followed that with converting on two free throws with six seconds left.
Morris got his second consecutive start in place of the injured Jamal Murray and rebounded from a 0-for-5 start in the matchup to finish shooting 6 of 12. With the Nuggets recently struggling with turnovers, Morris played a significant role in helping improve ball security. The Heat scored 35 points off of the Nuggets’ 19 turnovers on Saturday. On Monday, Denver only gave up 13 turnovers – which OKC scored 13 points off of. Morris’ zero turnovers played a role in that turnaround.
"I missed a couple, I was 0-for-5, but I was reading how OKC was playing me," Morris explained. "I just had to get my flow and my teammates kept telling me to 'keep playing, it's going to come to you.' That's what I did and I was able to come through late in the game."