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(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Balanced Play Earns Thunder 'W'

Game Recap: Thunder 108, Nuggets 94

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

THE BIG PICTURE

The Thunder took the reins early in the ball game against the Nuggets and hardly looked back on the way to a 108-94 victory inside of Paycom Center. A dominant performance in the paint, a triple-double from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a disciplined defensive effort all helped generate OKC’s largest margin of victory this season. 

MOMENTS FROM THE 48

Strong Hold on the Game

OKC worked to build its largest lead of the season from the very outset of the game. The Thunder’s offense hummed at a high level in the first quarter building up a lead of as many as 10 points – its largest lead at the end of the first quarter of the season. Lu Dort got things going on the very first possession with a 3-pointer right in front of the Thunder’s bench. From that point on, the Thunder’s buzzing offense continued for the next two frames as OKC outscored Denver 60-48. 

“We were just playing smart, aggressive basketball and taking what the defense gave us,” said thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “Denver plays aggressive coverage in the pick and roll. We didn’t fight it, we made the necessary passes and played unselfishly.”

While the offense played a major role in the Thunder’s ability to widen the gap, it was its defense that helped to keep a firm grip on the lead. OKC held the Nuggets to just 94 points, below 40-percent shooting from the field and 29.5 percent from the 3-point line. In addition, reining NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was held to a mere 13 points, three assists and seven rebounds. 

“We really tried to limit [Jokic’s] ability to ignite everybody else because it doesn't stop him from scoring either,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “I thought our guys did a great job with the game plan there.”

Photo by Coby Van Loan | OKC Thunder

"We were just playing smart, aggressive basketball and taking what the defense gave us."

—Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Big Paint Presence

The Thunder thrived in the paint against the Nuggets throughout the night to the tune of a 63 to 36 advantage in paint points. Part of the Thunder’s dominance in the rim was also in the form of owning the boards. OKC recorded its largest rebounding differential of the season going plus-31 on the glass and pulling down a season high 60 rebounds. 

“It was big,” said Thunder rookie Josh Giddey on the point in the paint differential. “When we got the ball in the middle of the key, that’s when they were vulnerable, and I think we took advantage of that.”

Gilgeous-Alexander led the way in paint production with 20 paint points of his own while shooting 62 percent in the lane. When it wasn’t SGA’s own shot, the fourth-year guard found his teammates such as Derrick Favors for short rolls in the lane that led to easy jumpers and floaters around the free throw line. Favors finished the night with 10 points, all of which were assisted by Gilgeous-Alexander. 

“With the coverage they play, you that's what they give up and that's what's gonna be open,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Obviously [Favors] makes those shots. So we just wanted to be aggressive to make sure he was in rhythm to try to make them pay as much as we can.”

Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

Shai’s Triple-Double

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander logged his second career triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and a season high 11 rebounds. His impact could be felt throughout the entire ball game as he was responsible for 51 of the Thunder’s 108 points through either a score or assist. 

“I thought his pace of play, especially in the first half, was pretty impressive against pressure,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “He just kind of cruised that his own pace there especially early in the game and did a nice job finding his teammates as well. Spraying out there for shots and cuts and guys did a good job of moving which is critical against a defense like that.”

Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

Bazley’s Punch off the Bench

With 17 points and 11 rebounds, Thunder forward Darius Bazley logged his second double-double of the season and his third consecutive game scoring in double figures. In a true demonstration of his effort around the rim, five of his seven made baskets for the night were dunks while also logging two blocks for the night. Wednesday’s matchup marked his third consecutive game coming off the bench for the Thunder and the third year forward has provided a big spark off the bench in each contest. 

“I thought he played well,” said Daigneault. “Part of being a pro is being able to adapt to different roles and different situations where your number gets called. He's had a pretty steady role for a while now, and this is a good growth opportunity for him.”

“Baze is a professional,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “No matter what, he's gonna do what he can to contribute to the team. Be the best him for us. He did that tonight.”

Photo by Coby Van Loan | OKC Thunder

The Last Word

Josh Giddey on defending a lead throughout the game…

“Tonight we came out strong out of the gates. We kind of lead from the front the whole way. We control the pace, we set the tone early on and that was good. It's a step in the right direction for us in terms of coming out the gates early and ready to play.”

Mark Daigneault on winning after holding a large lead…

“We haven't been in this situation a ton. Obviously, it's part of the 48-minute mentality. You got to be able to keep playing when things aren't going well and you're down and you've got to be able to keep playing when things are going well and you're up.”

What’s Next 

The Thunder closes out its home-road back-to-back with a tilt against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. The team will enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas at home before returning to the hardwood on Sunday to face the New Orleans Pelicans inside of Paycom Center.