Denver Nuggets 119, Oklahoma City Thunder 101: Three takeaways
The Nuggets almost did everything right against the Jazz only to suffer a four-point defeat against their Rocky Mountain Rivals Sunday. There wouldn’t be a repeat performance two days later against the Thunder.
Denver grabbed hold of the game in the second quarter against Oklahoma City and never looked back, securing an assured 119-101 win against its Northwest Division opponents at Ball Arena.
"When we defend, we win," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. "I know I sound like a broken record, but it's so true, and after that first quarter, where we didn't defend; 31 points, they shot over 50 percent from the field and after that, our defense was terrific."
"We've had leads we've blown; we haven't closed some nights and tonight I thought we put forth a really good effort and that was great to see."
The Nuggets had seven players in double-figures in scoring and capitalized on their size advantage over the Thunder, owning a 58-41 margin on the glass. Denver had four players with at least seven boards on the night.
Nikola Jokić continues to have a career year and finished with 27 points, 12 boards, and six assists in just three quarters to pace the Nuggets. The Thunder were led by Luguentz Dort, who had 20 points and five boards on the night.
Denver now starts a five-game road trip with a back-to-back against the Suns in Phoenix. The first matchup will tip-off Friday (8 p.m. MT, ESPN and ALTITUDE).
"This was a real quality home win against a division opponent," Malone said.
Here are the takeaways
The Nuggets entered the second quarter tied at 31, but it was the strong play of their bench that allowed the team to grab hold of the contest.
The reserves sparked the team to a 7-0 at the start of the quarter, with the team’s backup guards playing a significant role. With Oklahoma City opting to run with a small lineup due to Al Horford’s absence (personal reasons), Denver was able to match in turn by running Facundo Campazzo, Monte Morris and P.J. Dozier together to damaging effect.
"I thought our bench gave us quality minutes tonight...they were terrific," Malone said.
Campazzo’s numbers, three points and one steal on 1-of-6 shooting, might not jump off the stat sheet but he was incisive and delivered arguably the moment of the game with a through-the-legs, behind-the-back assist to Morris for the lay-in.
Morris and Dozier continued their strong run of play recently, combining for 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
"We're just trying to be better than the next team's bench, that's all we can really come in and control," Morris said.
Physicality rules the day
Just 48 hours removed from failing to capitalize on 23 offensive rebounds, the team wouldn’t be denied Tuesday.
OKC lined up a smaller group and Denver took full advantage as it owned the glass. It was equally as assertive in second-chance points, dropping a whopping 32 points in that area. OKC had just three for the entire game. It was the impetus for the second quarter, where the Nuggets took control of the contest.
Denver held OKC to just 26.1 percent shooting in the quarter, with the visitors only able to muster 21 points. The home team had 19 boards in that quarter alone and put up 13 second-chance points. It had 14 second-chance points in the entire game in its loss to Utah Sunday night.
Paul Millsap led the charge, corralling 12 boards to go along with 13 points in 26 minutes. Jokić, JaMychal Green (eight boards) and Isaiah Hartenstein (seven) also helped with the Nuggets’ advantage on the night.
An incredible season continues
Bill. Wilt. Kareem. Hakeem. Shaq. Nikola.
Jokić’s dominance this season is placing him in a stratosphere among centers whose first names only need to be mentioned due to their greatness. That’s how good he’s been.
"He's super smart and he understands how defenses are going to play him and he knows how to get guys involved in the game," Millsap said. "It doesn't matter what defense it is; he's going to figure it out and make the right play. I think at the end of the day, making the right play is what it's all about and that's what he's about.”
Jokić flirted with another triple-double before being rested with the game decided. In the first half, he was nothing short of brilliant, putting up a near double-double with 19 points and eight boards to go along with three assists. He also shot 66 percent in those opening two quarters.
"Everyone's talking about the LeBrons, the Giannises, we're playing with a Hall of Famer right here," Morris said after the game. "You don't get a guy like that [everywhere], playing at a high-level, putting up a triple-double every night."
"He doesn't get a lot of credit as he should. Maybe because he ain't flashy with the dunks and all that, but he produces just as much, if not more than anybody in the NBA. I'm amazed every night."
The Nuggets center entered Tuesday’s contest averaging a triple-double with 25 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 10.3 assists a night.