Missed opportunities prove costly for Nuggets in loss to Thunder

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted Dec. 18, 2013 00:30

Energy wasn’t an issue for the Denver Nuggets against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Accuracy? That’s another story – a big part of the story.

Given second, third and fourth chances around the rim Tuesday night, the Nuggets repeatedly failed to covert in traffic. Denver grabbed 13 offensive rebounds but managed only five second-chance points in a 105-93 loss to the Thunder at Pepsi Center.

“We fought,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “I liked our spirit in terms of fighting but we couldn’t finish in the paint.”

Denver (14-10) finished 23-for-49 from inside the paint and 1-for-11 on shot attempts following an offensive board.

“We have to take better pride of finishing at the rim,” Nuggets big manJ.J. Hickson said. “Tonight was one of those nights.”

Hickson led Denver with 20 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Point guard Ty Lawson added 17 points and 13 assists, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Nuggets from falling to 7-4 at home.

Kevin Durant scored 30 points for the Thunder (20-4), who have won seven straight games and 15 of their past 16.

“Some of our guys before the game, when I was trying to tell them how good this team was and how we really had to be on point if we wanted to have a chance to win this game, felt I was kind of over-inflating them,” Shaw said. “I was just telling the truth. You have to play a near flawless game in order to beat them.”

In terms of turnovers, the Nuggets were flawless in the first quarter, but they had 11 miscues in the second and third quarters combined to allow Oklahoma City to score easy points in transition.

Despite the struggles, Denver trimmed a 12-point deficit to one in the third quarter before the Thunder pushed the advantage back to 13 midway through the fourth.

Nate Robinson scored 10 straight points to rally the Nuggets within six points with 7:16 remaining, but Oklahoma City went on a 14-2 run over a 2:48 span to put the game out of reach.

“We’ve been behind to bad teams and came back and won,” Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler said. “When you get down against a great team like that, you might come back, but nine times out of 10, you’re not going to get the lead back.”

Chandler scored nine of his 13 points in the first 3:04 of the third quarter. Kenneth Faried also scored 13 points, while Robinson finished with 12 off the bench.

The Nuggets fell to 1-2 on their four-game stop at Pepsi Center. They close out the homestand Friday night against the Phoenix Suns (14-9).


J.J. Hickson

Points 20 7-13 FG, 0-0 3FG, 6-9 FT
Rebounds 14, 5 OFF 9 DEF
Assists 1
Steals 0
Blocks 1


Points Kevin Durant 30
Rebounds J.J. Hickson 14
Assists Ty Lawson 13
Steals Lawson 4
Blocks Nick Collison 2


Nuggets coach Brian Shaw on Oklahoma City's quick strike ability

"We got it down to six. I just walked from the scorer's table to the bench and looked up and we were down 18. It happens like that."


Thunder thwart Denver rally with late run

After Nate Robinson scored 10 straight points to bring the Nuggets within six midway through the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City went on a 14-2 run over a 2:48 stretch to put the game out of reach.


Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw

On what he saw during the game tonight:

“We got beat by a better team tonight. We fought. I liked our spirit tonight in terms of fighting but we couldn’t finish in the paint. We got in the paint but we didn’t finish in the paint. It seemed like we couldn’t play defense on them without fouling. I looked down at the stat sheet and we shot more foul shots than they did. Last game we played them, Durant and Westbrook got 68 points between them. Today they got 51 (points) but still those other things, that’s not finishing, that’s not hitting our perimeter shots when we had good looks at the three. We really got them going in the second quarter. We went the first quarter without any turnovers. I think we had six turnovers in the second quarter which started to ignite their break and allow them to get out and get some easy buckets in transition and you can’t do that against a team of that caliber.”

On turning the ball over from sloppy play:
“I think we got a little sloppy. I think we were tight again. This was the first night in a while that our second unit kind of got outplayed by the other team’s second unit. They had Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones, [Nick] Collison, [Jeremy] Lamb and [Derek] Fisher in the game when they actually opened the game up on us in that second quarter and hit shots … Randy Foye had a wide open shot and he wasn’t even close. Nate [Robinson] threw a couple of passes away, where to me they were just unforced errors and we just seemed tight.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson

On what the team can take away from tonight’s loss:
“We missed a lot of easy points in the paint. I think we were 23 of 48 in the paint or something crazy like that and we made too many turnovers after the first quarter. That’s when they made their run. When they start making runs and making 3s it’s tough to stop them.”

On if it’s tough when you’re constantly playing from behind:
“Yeah, because they might miss a couple shots but eventually they are going to get their rhythm back and get the shots they want. Scott Brooks has plays hidden up his sleeve that he pulled out today—I mean we didn’t prepare for them and they were good plays that got them easy shots. Trying to come back against a team like that is tough.”

On how he thinks he compares to the elite point guards in the Western Conference:
“I think I stack up with all of them. When a great point guard comes up you definitely have to step up to the challenge. Russell (Westbrook) definitely played well tonight, but I feel like every game I try to play my best.”

Nuggets forward/center J.J. Hickson

On tonight’s game:
“We have to take better pride of finishing at the rim, tonight was one of those nights. They are a great team. We came out in the first quarter a little tight but in the second half we did a better job at taking good shots. We have to cut down on our turnovers, throughout the game it was wild play on our part. We love to push the ball and have good pace, but tonight we were rushing into our offensive sets.”

On the team’s confidence:
“There are too many games in the NBA but we are not playing to lose, I would like to have as many wins as possible. It’s going to be a learning experience, watch film tomorrow and get ready for Fridays game.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks

On tonight’s performance:

“I thought we did a good job of getting back on defense and keeping the pace where we wanted it to be. We wanted [the Nuggets] to run their offense in a half court setting and I thought we did a good job of that. They got a little loose in the fourth quarter and scored 28 points, but other than that I thought our offense was really good. We were very patient and we executed in the half court. Russell [Westbrook] did a phenomenal job of leading the group to start the game and to finish the game.”

On tonight’s win being a team effort:
“It was a team effort. Everybody chipped in. All guys stepped up on the defensive end when needed and offensively we moved the ball. We actually missed a lot of good shots, but I liked the ball movement tonight. I thought Nick [Collison] was really good. He came in and gave us a great spark with his rebounding and offensive execution. I thought [Derek] Fisher was his normal, tough, feisty self. Jeremy [Lamb] hit a big shot also. Everybody stepped up tonight and it was a good team win.”

On beating Denver at home:
“It is not an easy place to win. They are a very good team. They are one of the top teams in the game and they are playing good basketball. We did a good job of making them play in the half court. But they are a good team. They had an off shooting night from the three, just like we did. We have a lot of respect for how they play and how their players compete. They play hard and are going to continue to have a good season.”

Thunder forward Kevin Durant

On what worked offensively:

“We looked at film of the last game we played them and they hit us first. Tonight we just were aggressive to start the game. Serge [Ibaka] started us off well on the offensive end and defensively we helped each other out. They got some transition points but when we played in the half-court I think we did a decent job.”

On his shooting performance:
“I was just being aggressive and I was just shooting, to be honest, and they were going in … I was just trying to be aggressive because I knew I didn’t start the game off the way I wanted to.”

On Russell Westbrook’s rebounding:
“He’s just a freak athlete. He’s 6’3, he’s big and strong. He’s a great rebounder for his position. It did a lot for us because he got off the boards and pushed the break and got everybody easy baskets. Tonight he did that. The last few games actually he’s been rebounding really well. He stole a few of mine as well and that’s the reason why I only had six.”

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook

On the defensive performance:

“Defensively we did a good job of getting back in transition and finding ways to get stops and also did a good job of getting easy baskets.”

On rebounding:
“It gets us an opportunity to push the break. It gets us into our sets a lot quicker and gives us opportunities to play with a better pace. It gives me a better rhythm and it’s good for our team.”

On getting Serge Ibaka involved offensively early in the game:
“Once they put two guys on myself or Kevin [Durant] or whoever, our job is to make the other guys better. That’s what I did early in the game. If two guys are guarding me then somebody’s open so that’s what I try to do.”



• J.J. Hickson registered his second straight double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes. It was his eighth double-double of the year and third in his last five games. It was the 14th game of Hickson’s career with 20+ points and 14+ boards.

• Ty Lawson recorded 17 points, 13 rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes. It was Lawson’s fifth double-double of the year and 29th of his career (Denver is 22-7 in those games). Additionally, his 13 assists are tied for the fourth most he has dished out in his career.

• Tonight was the first time in Lawson’s career that he has had 17+ points, 13+ assists and 4+ steals in the same game. It was the 11th time in his career he has had four-or-more steals.

• Nate Robinson scored 12 points off the bench. It was the 13th time this year Robinson has led the reserves in scoring, and the 11th time in the last 13 games he has done so.

• Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points to go with six rebounds and two steals. It was Durant’s 12th 30-point game of the year, no one else in the league has more than seven.

• Russell Westbrook tallied 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for the Thunder tonight. It was the fifth time in his career he has reached those numbers in the same game, with Oklahoma City going 5-0.


• Denver’s loss snaps their two-game home winning streak over Oklahoma City. The Thunder captured their third win at Pepsi Center in their last 12 tries.

• The Nuggets scored 93 points in the loss, the fifth time in the last seven games that they have scored under 100 points.

• Oklahoma City surpassed the century mark for the 13th consecutive time when facing Denver.

• The Thunder outrebounded the Nuggets 53-43 on the game and 27-15 in the second half. It was the sixth time this season a Nuggets’ opponent has collected 50+ rebounds.

• Denver’s bench scored a season-low 27 points, and it was just the fourth time this year they have been outscored by their opponent’s reserves. The Nuggets’ bench came into tonight’s game ranked third in the NBA with 44.7 points per game.

• The Thunder outscored the Nuggets 52-46 in points in the paint, the seventh game a Denver opponent has scored 50+ in the paint.

• Denver recorded 13 offensive rebounds, but were only able to manage five second-chance points on 1-of-11 shooting (.090).

• Kevin Durant is the fifth player to score 30+ points against the Nuggets this season. Out of those five games, three have come at the hands of Oklahoma City players (Durant twice, Westbrook once).