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Recap: Nuggets lose in terrible defensive effort against Thunder

Nikola Jokic did everything he could, but it just wasn’t enough to topple the mighty OKC Thunder as Nuggets drop to 0-4 in the preseason

Denver Nuggets v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Nikola Jokic was great tonight; he posted 22 points (8-11 from the field, 1-1 from deep, 5-5 from the charity stripe), 12 rebounds, and 5 assists to go along with 3 steals and a block. Unfortunately, no one joined him in that effort. Bones Hyland and Jeff Green were decent off the bench, especially in the second half, but the rest of the starters were disappointing. They combined to shoot 34% (16/47) from the field.

The Nuggets were also awful on defense in this one. There’s no excuses either as they were going against who a lot of people see as the worst team in the league. It was a pain to watch and overall just an embarrassing effort even if it is preseason.

First Quarter

The Nuggets starting lineup was fine to start the game. They were cutting, moving, making extra passes; basically everything Michael Malone preaches. They got up a lot of threes, the best of which was an MPJ 4-point play (love the rhyme there). However, they also struggled on defense, they were slow on closeouts which allowed a lot of threes; and they also did not protect the rim. After an Oklahoma timeout, Malone kept the starters in for a little bit before subbing in PJ Dozier for MPJ; staggering Michael and Joker. Soon after he subbed in a second unit of Facu/Bones/PJ/MPJ/Jeff Green and it just didn’t work. There were a lot of sloppy plays. No one could get anything going offensively, and defensively it was a nightmare. Michael Porter also got called on kick-outs a couple of times — it was a really rough quarter for him in particular.

Second Quarter

The second quarter started with an all bench lineup of Facu/Bones/Rivers/PJ/Jeff Green and it was even worse in this quarter. What went from an unideal 23-29 deficit quickly ballooned to a 26-36 deficit with the only bucket coming from a Bones Hyland three. Jeff Green really struggled to do much of anything, missing both of his shots, fouling three times, and turning the ball over — all before the eight minute mark of the second quarter. Then the starters came back in; Big Honey and Will ran 2 man game very well, resulting in a Jokić and-one followed by a Barton 3 pointer. The momentum shifted. Mike didn’t shoot the ball well still, but he did good on scoring in the paint. Going into half, the starters had brought the deficit down to 5, 48-53; Thunder lead.

Third Quarter

Coming out of halftime, MPJ and Barton each hit a shot; but it didn’t matter. The Nuggets were still playing just awful defense. If I didn’t have to write this article I would’ve turned it off. They allowed Isaiah Roby to score 8 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter on three straight possessions. After this Malone called a timeout. After that...well, it wasn’t pretty. The Nuggets allowed a lot and scored a little; the deficit got up to 15 points at one point (57-72). Malone had enough and had a five man sub to bring in the bench unit. Then the deficit got to 20. Towards the end of the quarter it did get cut to 12; thanks to Bones hitting a 3, then getting fouled on a 3 point attempt on the next play, among other things. The Nuggets entered the final frame down 72-84.

Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter started with a Bones mid-range shot. Then he set up a cutting Jeff Green for an emphatic dunk...and then Jeff Green hit a corner 3. Suddenly, the Nuggets had a ball game, the score was 79-86 — from 20 down to only 7. The Thunder started playing sloppy; Jeff Green responded with another 3. The Nuggets weren’t perfect though, they allowed a score, then Facu missed a 3 which lead to a score for the Thunder on the other end. They were back down by 8. Malone must have really wanted this game though, because he subbed Nikola Jokic back into the game with 9 minutes left. Then nothing really happened for another minute or so until he subbed in Monte and Will. There were glimpses of hope. He brought in the entire starting lineup with 5 minutes to go. MPJ missed a few shots, so Malone put in Bones to close. However, the Nuggets turned the ball over twice and went down by 12 again. It was at this point Malone waved the white flag and put in the reserves.

Nuggets remain winless in preseason; lose 108-99.