The Denver Nuggets were without Nikola Jokic for tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they weren’t planning on coming out of the gate slow. They won the first quarter 28-19 behind a 6-of-13 showing from 3-point range while holding the Thunder to just 28 percent shooting overall. In the first quarter, they had nine guys see the floor, and six of those nine made at least one triple. Of the three guys that missed, one of them was Michael Porter Jr., who was just 1-of-5 in the first period.

To start the second quarter, Denver was getting a lot of scoring out of their bench. They had 18 points from their bench midway through the second quarter, and that had helped them to maintain their big lead. The Nuggets were into a scoring lull in the final minutes of the second quarter. Their lead had dwindled from nine down to four with just over four minutes remaining in the quarter. Denver got a couple of buckets, but, over the next two minutes, they couldn’t buy a call. Multiple hard-contact plays went uncalled, and Denver gave up buckets on the other end. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander committed a questionable foul near the end of the half that put Reggie Jackson at the free throw line, but Denver found themselves ahead 51-47 after a sloppy ending to the first half.

To start the second half, both sides got a couple of quick buckets to fall, but the offenses stagnated over the next several minutes with fouls and missed shots galore. Denver was unable to get out of their scoring drought, and the Thunder had tied the game at 59 with just seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Denver had no answer for SGA as he was up to 18 points on the night, and Denver was repeatedly settling for outside shots while the Thunder were driving to the rim. With five minutes left in the period, Denver was being demolished in points in the paint. The Nuggets shot 3-of-14 from 3-point range in the quarter compared to 3-of-5 for the Thunder, and, after leading at the half, they were trailing 73-72 entering the final quarter of play. The absence of Jokic had left their offense searching for a consistent answer.

To start the fourth quarter, the Nuggets gave up quick buckets to the Thunder, and they just couldn’t find an answer for the energy OKC was bringing on either end of the floor. Chet Holmgren was getting whatever he wanted inside while Denver continued to take and miss 3-point shots. In less than two minutes, their deficit had ballooned from one to 11. With every minute that passed, the Nuggets’ hopes continued to fade. OKC just looked like the team that wanted it more. Even with SGA on the bench, the Thunder lead continued to grow.

Midway through the quarter, Denver finally got a little bit rolling on the offensive end. They were attacking the basket, and it was yielding positive results. The Thunder lead was back to single digits with 5:36 remaining in the game. On MPJ’s third 3-pointer of the game, the Nuggets had cut the OKC lead to four, and Denver looked to have found new life. Almost immediately after finding that new life, SGA scored six points on two straight possessions, and the lead was back to 10 with under four minutes to go. Aaron Gordon was looking to will the Nuggets back into the game by himself. He had 13 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists on the night, and he fighting to keep this game close along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Murray got to the line to make it a one-point game, but Denver gave up two offensive rebounds and a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left which looked to be the final nail in the coffin. Despite the best efforts of Gordon, Denver was going to fall in this one 100-105 without Jokic to steady them. This leaves them at 33-16 and a half-game back of the Thunder in the Standings.