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Recap: Nuggets avoid near embarassment in narrow victory over Thunder

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

Austin Rivers and Nikola Jokic lead the Nuggets to a victory after a near embarrassing collapse to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both had 22 points tonight, with Austin having 6 3s for himself and Jokic having 16 rebounds and 6 assists. It was an ugly game, and not one I would want to put myself through again, but a win is a win and the Nuggets have had a hard time coming across those lately. Barton and AG were mildly disappointing only shooting 7 of 23 between the two of them. Onto the next one I guess.

First Quarter

The first quarter started with a welcome sight. Will Barton started this game off fantastic. In just the first 2 and a half minutes, he was already at 3 of 3 from the field for 8 points. With that start — the rest of the team felt the tone that was set. They were engaged and got out to a 17-4 lead in just the first 4 and a half minutes. They started 6 of 11 from the field, and 3 of 3 from beyond the arc. They were just torching the Thunder, and shutting them down on the other end as well holding them to just 2 of 9 from the field and 0 of 2 from 3.

The Nuggets hit a bit of a hitch around the 5 minute mark when Aaron Gordon picked up his 2nd foul of the game, but they were still doing great for themselves seeing as they were up 22-9 and then Monte hit a 3 to keep their momentum going. The lead didn’t change much for the rest of the quarter. Shots were exchanged, Jokic subbed out and it was ugly. Mainly because the bench was just trying a bunch of isolations that weren’t going anywhere. Bones was 0 of 3 after the first quarter, but overall they played fine enough and only lost their stretch by 1. They go into the 2nd quarter with a 36-23 lead over the OKC Thunder, quite the solid start.

Second Quarter

The start of the second quarter was ugly for both sides. Both benches kind of sucked and there were five missed shots and two turnovers before there were any points scored in the quarter — and it was a Kenrich Williams and-1 after which Malone called a timeout. After that, the Nuggets didn’t play great. Austin Rivers kept their heads above water with a couple of 3s and Jeff Green continued his great play from last game, but Bones and Facu did not play well. Facu passed up multiple open layups, and Bones shot 0-5 from the field so far in the game and also turned it over on a traveling violation. Malone called timeout at just about the 6 minute mark, and even with the bench not playing great; the Nuggets were up 9 so not the worst it could’ve gone I suppose.

The starters then came back into the game, minus Jamychal in favor of Austin Rivers, who buried yet another 3 putting him at 14 points on 4 3s with 4 minutes to go before half, a team high in both categories. It was a surprising, but welcome sight. Will also pitched in another bucket. The Thunder then called a timeout and the Nuggets lead was back up to 12 after a nice Monte cut and a feed from AG. After that, it was more of the same from the Nuggets. AG was pretty quiet, but everyone else in the starting lineup did pretty well and even AG had some nice defense on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Nuggets take a 12 point lead into half — 61-49.

Third Quarter

Ah yes, the third quarter. Where dreams go to die. Including in this game. Because the starters got off to a very, very rough.....start (see what I did there?). Aaron Gordon took a lot of 3s and missed all of them. The only basket came from Jokic and OKC started scoring more. Malone called a timeout, and the Nuggets lead had been cut down to just 7 at 63-56. Unfortunately, not much actually changed after the timeout. At one point the lead got cut down to 3. Luckily they still had Jokic who scored an and-1 to kind of calm things down.

Unluckily, the rest of the team sucked. The team outside of Jokic shot a measley 27% at the time of about 3 minutes left in third for the entire quarter up until that point. It was an awful viewing experience and it held Jokic back even — which is very hard to do. Then the lead got cut down to 1. Then 0. Then they went down by 1. It was so frustrating because we had seen this dance so many times before, the team just falls apart in the second half.

However, the bench actually played fairly well during their stretch. Davon Reed was inputted into the lineup for Bones in this second half because Malone benched Bones. The team outside of Jokic kept that 27% shooting though, and somehow enter the final frame up 2 80-78. What a disappointment of a quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Jeff Green started this quarter off with a vengeance. He threw down a poster off a Facu dime and hit a spin hook in the post to put the Nuggets up by 6 and forced the Thunder into a timeout. Unfortunately though, they did not keep that up and the bench eventually ended their stint tied with the Thunder at 87 a piece around the 7 minute mark.

After that only Jokic and Barton came in for Zeke and Davon. However, Facu had a terrible stretch in which the Thunder took a lead and he committed a turnover and missed some shots. He wasn’t good, and his worst stint came at the worst time. He got to the free throw line, then missed one of them. Then Aaron Wiggins and Darius Bazely both scored and pushed the Thunder lead to 5. This forced Denver into using a timeout, and it was not looking great. The Nuggets were struggling to get Jokic the ball which has been a theme this season, and it just was awful basketball.

Out of the timeout Jokic started with a layup. Then Austin Rivers pitched in yet another 3 and a nice layup which brought him up to a whopping 22 points on the night. Then Muscala tied it up with a hook. It was 95 a piece with 50 seconds left, and Nikola Jokic got fouled and hit a pair of free throws to put the Nuggets up by two. The Thunder played the free throw game for the rest of the game and eventually the Nuggets wound up victorious with a final of 99-95.