The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Denver Nuggets at home, 115-105. Despite what was a relatively close affair throughout, the Nuggets demonstrated consistent, repeated ability to be a little bit better than the Thunder in every aspect of the game and complete the season’s sweep. The Thunder fall once again to 8th place in the Western Conference standings while the Nuggets move into a virtual tie for 1st. The potential for the Thunder facing Denver in the 1st round is relatively high at this point, which doesn’t bode well for OKC.
Former NFL head coach Bill Parcels once famously said, “You are what you are.” Meaning, whatever your record is, that is what you are. It doesn’t matter if point differential says you should be something different, or if a handful of games were reffed unfairly, or the schedule was unkind. At the end of the day, if you’re the 8th seed in the conference and swept by one of the best teams in the league, there’s really little left to debate.
Denver won by 10 tonight, and that feels about right. Despite the Thunder coming out with a fairly effective game plan, using Steven Adams as an offensive hub and Russell Westbrook attacking off the dribble, and with the Nuggets come off a near-30 point shellacking by the Rockets the night before, the cards were theoretically in OKC’s favor. But it didn’t matter, because Denver is the superior team, and once again proved, as they had done three times earlier this year, that OKC is not in their weight class.
Adams was great on the offensive end. Russ played a solid floor game. Paul George, despite lingering shoulder issues, had a strong 2nd half. And yet, as Brett Dawson pointed out, it all wasn’t even close to being good enough to have a chance to win in the end.
Thunder outscored the Nuggets 68-46 in the paint, 19-13 in second-chance points and 16-5 on the fast break. And with all that, lose by 10. Biggest difference: Outscored by 18 behind the 3-point line.
— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) March 30, 2019
With the game in the balance and OKC desperately trying to make a dent in Denver’s lead, the Nuggets closed out the game shooting 67% from the floor, 4-7 from three, and with key buckets from just about everyone. They made tough shots and easy shots. All the shots.
Here’s an observation, and it probably isn’t a complex one. Save for Paul George, from top to bottom, the Nuggets have superior shooting at every single position. Unless someone other than George gets hot from the floor, there’s essentially nothing the Thunder team can do to overcome this hurdle as presently constructed. In fact, how many times this year did we witness another team, regardless of record, start off a game against OKC’s defense shooting 70% from the floor to race out to an early double-digit lead? It feels like just about all of them, doesn’t it?
When the final epitaph for the Westbrook era concludes, this will be a prominent footnote — when the league decided to make material changes to emphasize offense over defense, Sam Presti & Co. went in the wrong direction, and facing teams such as the Nuggets, Warriors, and Rockets underscore this misstep more than any other.