Oklahoma City, OK -- It's an unfortunate state of affairs for the Nuggets, this game in Chesapeake Arena was over before it even started. Sure, Wilson Chandler and Company didn't have to deal with Kevin Durant (out with a foot injury), but it didn't matter.
The Nuggets attitude, energy, and game plans stink. The energy inside the arena was something those in Denver haven't seen over a season and a half. Well, maybe not since opening night of The Brian Shaw era, or so. The building here was packed and the Thunder look like they played an entirely different sport. It was nice to see a team play with passion and cohesiveness.
Scott Brooks has his team relentlessly attacking and attacking some more. OKC was able to get to the rim, or "work" for open looks whenever they wanted. In the first half, the Nuggets found themselves down 36-18 after the first quarter and 67-42 at the end of the first half. Another embarrassment for the boys in blue.
Take your first half pick. Ty Lawson "led" the team with a -23 in the first half, Kenneth Faried a -21, Jusuf Nurkic and Danilo Gallinari each with -19s. The only players not in the negative? J.J. Hickson and Will Barton, who each posted a 0 in their roughly 7 minutes of first half action.
The play of the first half, in my mind, was when Gary Harris attacked the lane, but was called for charging as he bulled into rookie center Mitch McGary. After the former Michigan standout popped up, he started sprinting back on offense ahead of the pack, Russell Westbrook caught up to him near half court and began jumping around McGary - sending the center and the home crowd into a frenzy. And I mean a frenzy. Chesapeake Arena got so loud a few times that you literally couldn't hear anything. It could be a while before we hear the Pepsi Center rocking like that again.
The first half saw Shaw used 12 of this 13 players - the maximum allowed since... or not (I thought only 12 players could be active, but Erick Green played in the fourth quarter) - with Lawson and Faried each playing the most individual minutes with roughly 15 apiece.
We did get our first looks at Will Barton and Joffrey Lauvergne in the first half. Barton has a eerily similar build to Corey Brewer and plays the game with the same speedster style out on the wing. Shaw complained earlier this season that the team couldn't run because they didn't have Andre Iguodala and Brewer anymore - enter Barton! His shot was a shaky, 0-3 to start, but he looked great on a transition dunk after an OKC made bucket, finishing the play with a dunk ahead of the pack.
Lauvergne, wearing Karl Mecklenburg's no. 77 (I'm sure he's a big Albino Rhino fan), checked in during the second quarter. Fortunately, he has a similar build to Enes Kanter, he's long and not too slender. He looked for contact on rebounds and was willing to mix it up with Nick Collison (a player Nuggets GM Tim Connelly has compared him to). He drew a foul on the offensive end with a nice pump fake, and canned both of his free throws.
King Joffrey played just 3:14 in the first half, but it was good to see Shaw put him out there. He did have a Welcome to the NBA moment on his lone first half shot attempt as he faked out his defender, but tried an up-and-under stretching layup. Serge Ibaka (a guy Joffrey played against with France in the World Cup, Ibaka plays for Spain) wasn't having that under the rim action and swatted the shot away. Joffrey will quickly learn you have to either attack the rim, or be more creative with layup attempts in the NBA.
The second half was more of the same as the Thunder expanded their lead to 98-69. Yes, Denver was down 29 points to start the fourth. We got a little more Barton and Joffrey in the third and both looked more settled. Lauvergne had a nice drop pass to Barton under the hoop off a drive, but was called for a charge. He has nice skills and that play will come in handy down the line in his NBA career.
Shaw turned the fourth quarter over to the Nugpups lineup of Erick Green, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Jusuf Nurkic. I have to say, I loved that Shaw did that and it's probably wise to do that with the game out of reach vs in the second quarter. Gives the young guys a chance to gain some confidence as a unit and not have to go against the cream of the crop - which could kill confidence if it didn't work. Perhaps Shaw will try that earlier as the season winds down. We shall see.
The Nuggets got creamed again, but it was good to see Shaw turn the game over to his Nugpups.
Views you can use:
Joffrey finished with 8 points and 3 rebounds in his first 18 minutes of NBA action.
Joffrey on the NBA vs leagues he has played in:
"Much more athletic, much faster."
Joffrey on his play:
"I played pretty good, I would like to take a little bit more rebound."
Joffrey said he got a little winded, but will work his way into shape the more he plays. I'll have more with and about Joffrey later.
Will Barton logged 25 minutes and scored 8 points on 3-10 shooting.
Danilo Gallinari looked pretty good on the offensive end, gaining some confidence, putting up 16 points, and going 3-4 at the foul line.
Gary Harris struggled in his 15 minutes and was just 1-5 from the floor. He looks a little unsure of himself when he decides to attack, but he did attack a little more tonight - with a charge coming off a dunk/layup attempt. I still want to see him with regular minutes to see how he grows in the last bit of this season.