The Denver Nuggets lost a tough matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night, losing 119-93 in blowout fashion.

This 26-point margin was Denver’s worst home loss since 2019, when the Nuggets lost to the Golden State Warriors headlined by Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson.

“I just felt like we beat ourselves tonight,” Jamal Murray shared postgame. “And then on top of that, they beat us as well.”

The Nuggets were on the second night of a back-to-back, and their shooting efficiency clearly showed it. Denver shot just 27% from three in on the game and struggled to space the floor around the Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic pick and roll.

Peyton Watson and Michael Porter Jr. combined to shoot just 2-of-12 from three in the first half, most of the shots open and in rhythm within Denver’s offense. The Thunder dared Watson to beat them just like the Memphis Grizzlies did the night before. This time around, Watson missed the open ones, and the offense struggled to create the right plays. Porter had his opportunities as well, but he simply didn’t look like he had the energy tonight and was a bit sloppy with his footwork on jump shots offensively.

Nikola Jokic finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists on 9-of-10 from the field. Jokic was extremely efficient when he shot the ball, but he was often faced with double and triple teams in the paint, causing him to be less decisive with his passing. Jokic finished the game with seven turnovers almost entirely on bad passes against the Thunder’s scrambling defense.

“Obviously, you gotta be clean with the ball. You can’t play in a crowd,” emphasized Michael Malone on Denver’s 17 turnovers resulting in 25 points for the Thunder. “It’s something they do to most teams, but you’re not going to give yourself a chance to win when you allow them to play to their strength.”

“They do such a great job of collapsing in the paint, so you gotta make sure that when two come to the ball, you have to have outlets.”

This is where not having Aaron Gordon can be a bit of a challenge. Gordon knows exactly where to be as an outlet for Jokic in the post. Whether he’s screening on the weak side, cutting to the rim, or spacing in the corner, Gordon reads the floor better than almost anybody in Denver’s offense. Watson is still learning on the job, and the Nuggets needed to be at peak performance tonight in order to break down OKC’s defense.

“They’re playing aggressive defense. They’re playing energetic defense,” Nikola Jokic shared. They’re using their hands on the gaps and the passing lanes. They’re coached really well. It was just one of those nights when nothing worked for us.”

Murray didn’t have a great shooting night tonight, going 4-of-15 from the field with Thunder wing Luguentz Dort as his primary defender. Murray missed some open shots, but Dort’s defense was noticeably good. Murray still found ways to impact the offense with 11 assists compared to just two turnovers, but he will have to adjust to Dort and OKC’s defensive coverage.

“The thing is, I’m like water, you know what I’m saying? You just gotta flow with that. If they shrink, something’s open,” Murray emphasized. “If Lu Dort doesn’t want to switch on something, then somebody else is open. There’s counters to everything. You can’t just be like, ‘They’re doing this, and we’re never going to be able to get to whatever the hell we want to do. You gotta be able to adjust and use whatever they do against them.”

On top of Denver’s offense struggling mightily, the Nuggets simply didn’t have an answer for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Chet Holmgren. SGA had 40 points in his 33 minutes, shooting 14-of-20 from the field and appearing extremely comfortable navigating Denver’s defense. SGA would navigate in pick and roll and isolation, snaking screens of rocking defenders to sleep in order to get to his spots on the floor. He was masterful tonight, hitting jumpers over Nuggets defenders even when the contests were good.

“He’s a special player,” Nikola Jokic said of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “He’s a problem in this league. The good thing about him is he wants to win. He doesn’t care about numbers. He wants to win, and I think that’s the best thing about him.”

 Holmgren began the game with 14 points in the first quarter, finding space against Jokic in the pick and roll consistently. Holmgren finished the game with just 24 points but went 4-of-4 from three-point range and appeared extremely comfortable in his own right.

The Nuggets will wipe this game away. It was a tough matchup against one of the best teams in the league on the second night of a back-to-back. The Nuggets have played more games than anyone this year, and they’re down a key rotation player. Still, it was an extremely impressive performance from the Thunder, one that merits serious consideration about their status as contenders. The Nuggets are now 13-3 at home, and OKC has defeated them twice. That means something.

Will it mean anything in a potential playoff matchup? Who’s to say? The Thunder appear fearless though.

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