Rapid Reaction: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Denver Nuggets 106

The Nuggets were outscored in the first quarter and never could recover. Durant was hot, Butler (see: Caron) was hot, and that’s about all it took for the Thunder to ride this one home. Grades inside.

Denver Nuggets 96 FinalRecap | Box Score 117 Oklahoma City Thunder
Kenneth Faried, PF 28 MIN | 5-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -20

Faried started off hot, hitting some impressive hooks over Ibaka, but dissipated as the game progressed. Though he still notched a double-double, he was only a few near misses away from having an impressive night statistically.

Quincy Miller, SF 25 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -13

Quincy played with tons of confidence and had several moments of glory but was ultimately overmatched by Durant. Still, he’s showing flashes of potential that are hard to ignore.

Timofey Mozgov, C 32 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -20

Mozgov had a good hustle game. He hit the glass hard and followed up his teammates’ missed shots which resulted in some nice put-backs.

Ty Lawson, PG 33 MIN | 5-11 FG | 13-16 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 25 PTS | -14

Lawson is playing with so much confidence that performances like these are starting to seem effortless. I already can’t wait to see what he does next year.

Randy Foye, SG 35 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-2 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | -20

Foye’s shot wasn’t falling and that’s about all that matters with him.

Darrell Arthur, PF 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | 0

Arthur played with lots of energy but just couldn’t hang with the Thunder’s athleticism.

Anthony Randolph, SF 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -2

Randolph moved the ball well, evident by his four assists on the night. The Nuggets seem to be doing a better job overall of making the extra pass in each possession and Randolph certainly helped in that regard.

Aaron Brooks, PG 28 MIN | 1-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 5 PTS | -8

Brooks couldn’t hit anything yet his defensive energy was admirable.

Evan Fournier, SG 24 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -8

Like Arthur and most of his other teammates, Fournier was playing with confidence but was just overwhelmed by the Thunder’s talent, length and athleticism.

Brian Shaw

The Nuggets basically ran into a freight train. There was nothing they could have done to win this game. They were over matched in nearly every manner yet they never really gave up. They were also prepared from the start and seemed at peace with the product they put out on the floor. This all reflects well on Shaw. Granted, the defense was atrocious, but again, no amount of defense could have stifled the Thunder on this night.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The Nuggets were moving the ball extremely well for most of the game. This was nice to see. However, too many times they tried to make a complicated extra pass instead of making a simple extra pass. This resulted in numerous unforced turnovers. Had the Nuggets limited these types of possessions they would have greatly increased their chances to keep the game closer.
  2. Caron Butler was on fire. He scored 23 points. He was the Thunder’s second leading scorer behind Durant, who had 27. The thing is: Caron Butler is not that good. So why did he score almost as many points as the hottest player in the NBA? Because the Nuggets were not playing defense this game. When Caron Butler is scoring a lot, that’s your first indication that you’re not playing defense… at all.
  3. I’ve been watching a lot of March Madness lately and have therefore been thinking a lot about the NBA Draft. One thing I’ve noticed about the Thunder over the years is that Sam Presti values athleticism. Steven Adams, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Eric Bledsoe, Perry Jones. These are guys who lack nothing in the athletic department, and most have turned out to be studs or at least valuable contributors in the NBA. Moral of the story: The Nuggets need athleticism to compete for a title — or hell, just to compete out West. With the draft coming up in three months and the Nuggets still in the running for a high pick, perhaps Tim Connelly should consider zeroing in on some much-needed freak athletes for the 2014-15 roster.

Next up: Wednesday, March 26 @ 6:30 p.m. (MST) vs. San Antonio. Going to the game? Save money and get cheap Denver Nuggets tickets here.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • heykyleinsf

    only lost by 11.. at halftime I was worried it was going to be 40

    • gimpcom187

      21. That’s that Idealism I keep talking about. 😉 just playing.

      • heykyleinsf

        You’re right… the score is posted wrong here.
        I shut it off at half.

  • Sócrates Manzoni

    Seems like a 100 years from that mythical Denver-OKC playoff games. Hopefully this season feels like it was 100 years ago soon

    • Nugman

      Remember how fun and intense all the Den-OKC games were over the last few years? It always seemed to come down to the last shot. Tonight it was over after the first shot!

      • Kane

        says more about the brilliance of OKC than it does about Denver though.

        • Nugman

          And how do you come to that conclusion?

  • LBJ

    Got the tank train back on track tonight.

  • Nugman

    Wow! That was fun! I’m behind this team and coach for next year! Watch out OKC here come the Nuggets!

  • Nugman

    OKC was without 3 starters – Westbrook, Stefolosha, Perkins- which is more loss than Gallo, McGee, Chandler, but it sure doesn’t destroy their team. They still execute in the half court, play team basketball and play decent defense. So why does one team collapse missing a few starters and another just keeps motoring on towards a championship run? Could it be the coaching? Of course not, we have the great Shaw!

    All season the excuse for Shaws failings has been because of injuries, but OKC and Brooks aren’t making that excuse. Maybe people should wake up to the fact that Shaw isn’t getting it done even if he gets an A or B every time on this site. He simply doesn’t have the team prepared to play and after 70 games that’s unacceptable.

    • mike gomez

      so Westbrook, Stefolosha, Perkins are a bigger loss than nate,gallo,mcgee,chandler, and hickson?? the reason the thunder still excute in the half court is because they have the second best player and future mvp.

      • Nugman

        Hicksons only been out a couple games and we sucked before that and Brooks is a wash for Nate, so the other 3 are what matter. All season we’ve heard that we couldn’t win without Gallo and McGee, but OKC wins without Westbrook, etc.

        I say OKC has the best player in the league and that makes the two situations somewhat different. But the common injuries also show that the injury excuse can’t explain all the problems this season

    • heykyleinsf

      why not change your name to Thunderman?

      • Nugman

        How bout Shawman?

        • heykyleinsf

          That would be fine by me

  • Nugman

    What game were you watching Kalen?

  • Richard Pesicka

    I’d like to post something positive. Way to go San Antonio. 14 in a row. Great coaching.

    • heykyleinsf

      I’m cheering for them to take it all.
      I would like to see Indy get one if the Spurs can’t
      but Duncan is pure class on the court.
      A little too all-business for some..
      I think he rocks and would like to see a good guys win it all this year

  • Nugman

    Do you really believe that a team down 24-41 at the end of the first quarter is ready to play “from the start”?

    Do you really think that the Nugget players are so lacking in talent, so stupid and so incapable of learning that after 70 games of being taught defense they would still be as terrible as they are? Not a chance if they were coached properly.

    • heykyleinsf

      do you really believe that this game is a 100% indictment of Shaw as a coach after we’ve had the worst year of injuries ever?
      You keep conveniently forgetting or minimizing that..
      ready to condemn everything going on despite that.
      We also had a roster turnover in mid season.

      You say all these things about how horrible our coach is.
      You completely disregard the circumstances.
      This season is a wash..
      There is no way you can make up your mind about anything at this point.

      • Nugman

        OKC has a lot of injuries but they aren’t the laughing stock of the league like the Nuggets. They’re missing 3 starters and one is Westbrook, yet they keep winning. But of course it’s different for them, right?

        • heykyleinsf

          do they have a first year rookie head coach?
          Do they not have an MVP caliber player?
          and besides.. didn’t we beat them once already?

          • Nugman

            You just explained my point. We beat them without Gallo and McGee and now they’re without 3 starters and we can’t even stay in the gym with them. Which teams improved and which went backwards?

            • mike gomez

              also look how many players we had out today, you cant be just one sided. give shaw a break, its his first season. our last coach wasnt so great either when he started.

        • Michael

          ***Warning wall of text incoming***

          Nugman, some of your comparisons are just plain one sided. Comparing the Nuggs to OKC is like comparing the Celtics to the Heat. Were the Celtics a better team last year? yes. Have the Celtics lost players and have a new coach? yes. Have the Heat got one of (if not) the best players in the league along with a top 30 or so side-kick? yes. Have the Celtics been struggling all season? yes. Can you tell me that the Celtics are a much better team than the Nuggs, or should be beating the Heat? No. The advantage the Celtics have is that they have had FO continuity to guide the team in a set direction, the Nuggs direction changed when the FO changed.

          As a ‘realist’, the roster we have when everyone is healthy is a lower to mid playoff caliber team at best (especially in the West). Now take into account the injuries we have had this season, not just the guys that are out now but also that Lawson was out a month and we had no ‘playable’ PG for a good portion of that. There is only so much a team/coach can do to overcome adversity and Denver didn’t have the tools to overcome the adversity they were faced with, partly due to the roster (which falls on the FO, past and present) and partly due to inexperience both of the roster and the coaching staff.

          While I don’t like to see the team I love lose, I understand that there is nothing to be gained from wins at this stage apart from some pride. The things you list that Shaw is doing that have ‘looked stupid’ or been unsuccessful are ‘tools’ to see what can potentially work and what doesn’t. Understand that trying them a handful of times is not always a big enough sample to see if the guys can get it to work or that they have executed it properly. As you said, we are 70 games into the season and Faried is finally starting to look like he may have figured out some of the techniques in defending the pick and roll and hedging/rotating back to his man.

          As much as I enjoyed the GK era, in hindsight I can honestly say that he never really adjusted his game plans or tried to expand many of his players comfort zones/or ‘tool sets’. How many plays did he run for Faried in post up situations, almost none. At the start of the season Faried was lost when passed the ball in the low post, now he is finally starting to grasp the concepts and he is having a great month, not just scoring and rebounding but he is making good passes at the right times.

          Shaw came in, wanting to run ‘his’ system and the players had a hard time understanding/adapting to that, so Shaw did the only thing he could (and something Karl never really did) in changing his current style to give his team a chance whilst trying to introduce things during the season.

          Karl’s system was unconventional, gamble a lot, switch everything and run at all costs. This played to the strengths of Denver due to the mile high advantage and the athletic and defensively challenged roster. Unfortunately as we know that system doesn’t hold up well in the post-season and is likely a key factor as to why Karl hasn’t been offered a coaching job. This style only works with certain rosters and is similar to D-Antoni’s style, he did very well with the Suns using that style and was lucky to have some very talented players on the roster at the time but ultimately didn’t have the success they had hoped for and since coaching other teams has had shocking records.

          Last season the only players we had that were sound defensively were Iggy, Chandler (although he has been so-so this year), Gallo and KK, the rest either were undersized (Ty, Faried), didn’t have the grasp of defensive concepts (Faried, McGee, Brewer to an extent) or didn’t care/put in effort (see A. Miller). Fast Forward to this year and who on that list has played big minutes for us, or is even on the roster? Our best perimeter and overall defender is gone, our best paint defender (KK, he knew how and when to rotate) is gone, Gallo is out for the year leaving only Chandler. We did get DA in return who is a solid defender but hasn’t seen enough court time until recently.

          This leaves Shaw with a giant knowledge gap as most of his roster have never been solid defenders or even been coached at this level on playing solid D, at least to the standard that Shaw wants. Yes the D has been bad for most of the year but at least I can say that Shaw is trying to get these guys to try different things and get a better understanding for the techniques involved in playing different defensive schemes.

          Sorry to all for the wall of text, I was just sick of seeing Nugman carry-on about Shaw and his coaching efforts.

      • Furious_Stylez

        Ignore the Shaw haters on this one. They have a very flimsy argument in this case. They are trying to compare a seasoned veteran NBA coach that was handed the keys to a Ferrari and asked not to crash it to a rookie head coach that was handed the keys to a broken down RV and was asked to get it working. Shaw is still getting the players on the same page, while Brooks already has his system, as well as a way better roster.

        According to the Shaw haters, the Nuggets win in spite of Shaw and lose because of him. Pretty much the dumbest position ever. They lack perspective, which is why they sound so naive. Somebody should remind them that their BFF Karl only won 36 games his first year and got fired before finishing his second season.

        • LBJ

          If the nuggets were a Ferrari (without a top 30 player) – what were the Heat?

          Nice cherry picking on Karl’s tenure in Cleveland. Here is a more accurate version. First season – led a perennially horrible team to the playoffs. Second season – had team in the playoffs, fired after 66 games and team missed playoffs.

          • Furious_Stylez

            What cherry picking? I listed facts: He won 36 games as a rookie HC and got canned in his second season.

            The Nuggets were never close to Ferrari level last season. They were a Mercedes C class: Nice looking car and could fool people into thinking they’re elite, but is just an average car when compared to a better luxury vehicle (Golden St). GS lost a wheel (Lee, a 20-10 PF) early, slapped on a spare (H Barnes) and still beat the Nuggs. GK was seriously outcoached by a second year HC, which I’m guessing was a major part of his dismissal. Last season was fun, but I had constantly remind myself that our coach’s system falls apart in playoffs… and it did once again.

            • LBJ

              You were the one that brought up the Ferrari – not me.
              You also forgot to mention that Karl made the playoffs in his first season, while Shaw’s nuggets aren’t even close – and according to you – just getting his “system” implemented.

              • Furious_Stylez

                I said Brooks was handed a Ferrari when he got Westbrick, The Slim Reaper, and Harden. Shaw got Lawson, Faried, Chandler, and a DLeague bench. 2 of 3 of the players listed have been hurt and missed multiple games this season, leaving Shaw without much to work with. I’m not saying Shaw is a great coach, but he deserves a healthy roster before being judged.

    • gimpcom187

      I wouldn’t pay too much attention to Kalen’s assessment of coaches. He was leading the run Karl out of town train. He pretty clearly is just attempting to put shaw in the best light possible to avoid admitting mistakes.

      • Nugman

        I was wondering why it was such a twisted view of the game

    • LBJ

      How can you possibly expect Shaw to have his team ready to play a team with stars like Andre Roberson, Caron Butler and Derek Fisher?

      • Nugman

        How could I have been so stupid? There’s know way the Nuggets could’ve stifled a freight train led by those stars. These stars just had the Nuggets overmatched in every manner. There’s no way the Nuggets could’ve won tonight with those stars playing leading roles

  • Kane

    add some freak athletes, over purely talented guys? we did that when adding McGee. See how that’s worked out?

    All the guys you listed are freak athletes, but are extremely talented as well. Aaron Gordon stands out as a freak athlete around our pick range, but do we need another PF with no range?

    • etlord1

      I see Gordon as basically the same player as Faried but with better defense. I personally think that we need to seek out a big shooting guard like what Shaw had with Lance Stephenson. I’m not saying we need to sign Stephenson, but we need a 2-guard who can play D. Foye and Fournier aren’t going to cut it if they want to go deep into the playoffs. I like Jordan Adams if Marcus Smart is off the board. I know Smart played more at the point in college, but he can fit well at the 2.

      • Heisenberg

        Disagree about Smart, he’s too small to play the 2. Denver has enough undersized players…..especially at guard.

        And Denver can’t afford Stephenson anyway so that point is moot.

        • slader

          But Smart behind Ty at PG on offense could cover the opponents’ SG while Nate plays 2 on offense and 1 on D.
          Anyway there will be 2 guards available: Hood, Harris, Young, McDaniels if there are no 4s worth picking

          • LBJ

            Smart can play SG – with his strength, he reminds me a little of D Wade. He will be long gone by the time we pick. Gary Harris would be a more likely pick for the nuggets.

            • Heisenberg

              I’m not big on him, he’s a huge question mentally and still hasn’t really developed a jump shot, which was the reason he went back for a second year.

              • LBJ

                I doubt if he has any issues in the NBA – a hell of a lot of players would have had the same reaction (or worse) to some taunting asshole.

                Had he left last year, he would have been the first pick. But this is all moot, as I doubt the nuggets get a shot at him.

              • etlord1

                Denver has a lot of assets to move up in the draft if they want, so getting Smart isn’t a total stretch. I’m not going to lie though. It won’t be easy making a move to get him.

              • LBJ

                I agree it wont be easy to move up to get him.

                However, I’m not sure we have a lot of assets we can afford to move.

      • Andrew

        I like what you are saying here and that was my initially reaction about Gordon, as well, but when I watched him more, I kept wondering if he could play SF. He seems to be fast and fluid enough and seemed to be able to pick up guys on the perimeter really well. Maybe that’s just a pipe dream and he is stuck in tweenerville with Faried. Man, he’s disruptive, though.

  • Nugman

    The DP says that Shaw “has settled on a system he wants to use”. I thought he was hired to implement “his system”? Why did he take 70 games to decide on a system when all we’ve heard about this year is Shaws great system? This nightmare only gets better by the day

    • LBJ

      I got a chuckle out of reading that nonsense today. Combine Shaw’s poor coaching with a totally inept front office – and you have the disaster we have been watching this season.