The Nuggets got off to a better start then they had been recently, but their strong bench play disappeared for a night. After keeping the Nuggets in games and even winning games, the reserves combined for just 27 points on 10-31 shooting or 32.2% from the field. The starters combined for 66 points as J.J. Hickson led the team with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
"We missed shots, easy buckets," said Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur. "You have games like that, but on the other end we have to lock down defensively. Which we didn't do at the end of the game, down six [points] and they got the lead back up to 16 [points]. It was unacceptable, but the good thing about it is we have another game coming up and we can scratch that one away."
Denver did get that OKC lead down to six points at 83-77 behind Nate Robinson's microwaved 8 points on 3-3 shooting, including two threes. But the Nuggets were outscored from there 22-16 as the Thunder fed Kevin Durant and got Russell Westbrook loose.
After grabbing 10 offensive rebounds, to keep the Nuggets in the game, the team was only able to muster three more in the second half. Offensive boards were key in the first half as the team shot just 19-49 or 38.8% from the field. The team shot better in the second half at 44.7% thanks to Wilson Chandler (5-8 in the second half), Nate Robinson (3-5 in the second half), and Ty Lawson (2-3 in the second half), but this loss will stick in the players' minds.
"It'll stick with me until tomorrow and then we have the [Suns] game the day after," said Arthur. "That's the good thing about the NBA, you have 82 games so we can scratch that and we have another one coming up. It's not like college where you have to wait a week and hold onto that [loss]."
It wasn't all bad for the Nuggets though and that's the odd part. They forced the Thunder into a lot of bad shots and got OKC to commit a game-high 18 turnovers. Even with Russell Westbrook going for 21 points (9-16 shooting) and Kevin Durant for 30 points (11-23), the Nuggets had a chance late to get back into the game.
"I thought we did a decent job [on defense], but we still gave up a lot of offensive rebounds late in the game which turned into shots for them. I thought we did a pretty good job on Westbrook and Durant, between the two of them they had 51 points, the first time [a 115-113 loss on Nov. 18th in OKC] they had 68 points. I thought we played okay, the effort was there, we just couldn't make shots - it was tough."
The most perplexing theme of the night was Denver getting second chance opportunities and good looks inside and not being able to capitalize on them. Check out the game shot chart for the Nuggets:
The team went 21-46 on shots in the paint and it was a theme all night. In the first half Denver was 11-24 in the paint and 10-22 in the second half.
"We got beat by a better team tonight," said Brian Shaw. "I liked our spirit in terms of fighting, but we couldn't finish in the paint. We got in the paint, we didn't finish in the paint."
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-After recording two Did Not Play - Coach's Decisions the last two games, Evan Fournier played 12:39 tonight and went 2-5 from the field, including 1-1 from three point land for 5 points. His lone three point make was taken on a confident transition three with no hesitation - it was one of the rare times he looked comfortable on offense during his brief stint.
"He played well against them the first time we played them in OKC," said Shaw. "Randy [Foye] got in foul trouble, Nate wasn't going good in the first half, so I saw it as an opportunity to get him out there. I think I surprised him, caught him off guard, because he hadn't played in the last couple games. That's why I always say, you have to stay ready so you don't have to get ready. And he seemed like he was a little tight, maybe a little nervous, but I thought he shook it off. That's why you always have to stay ready."
-Jordan Hamilton was ejected in the second half after throwing a punch to Steven Adams' shoulder after Adams put a little hip into Ham after a rebound on the Nuggets' end. A few possessions earlier, Adams put an elbow into Ham's back on a rebound on Denver's defensive end and Ham yelled at Adams after the play before inbounding the ball.
Nate Robinson drew a $10,000 find during the preseason after getting into an altercation with Adams, as well. The big New Zealander is good at getting under players' skin and guys have to know that's the book and him and ignore the extra shoves he gives. Expect Ham to draw an even bigger fine for the punch.
-Well after the game Kendrick Perkins rolled through the Nuggets' locker room to say hello to former Celtics teammate Robinson. He made a comment about Robinson's not so good looks ... no word yet on if Perkins has looked into a mirror.
-After the game Wilson Chandler told me that he got his right front tooth damaged during the Pelicans game, visited the dentist (where the tooth was shaved/shaped) and is having an implant made, but it won't be ready for around 10 days. I asked if he would perhaps do as an Instagram follower suggested and get a gold Larry Johnson-esque tooth in the stead - Robinson chimed in that Wilson should do just that, but Chandler didn't seem so sure he'd go that route. He should have a temporary tooth at some point in the next day or two before his "new" tooth will be ready.
Up next for the Nuggets is a Friday night [Dec. 20th] game at the Pepsi Center against the Phoenix Suns.
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