Nuggets suffer letdown in home return as Oklahoma City rolls to a win

Mar 2, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Theo Maledon (11) drives to the net against Denver Nuggets guard Bones Hyland (3) and guard Austin Rivers (25) in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder snapped the Denver Nuggets six-game winning streak behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 29 points. OKC was without eight of its players but still won on the road at Ball Arena 119-107.

“I thought we had an awful practice yesterday and for me I said yesterdays practice definitely carried over into tonight,” Michael Malone said. “Whether that was them just feeling a little bit too comfortable winning six in a row, maybe it was them not respecting the Oklahoma City Thunder, who you have to give a lot of credit to, they came in here and kicked our ass. I don’t know what it was but yesterdays practice was not a good practice and tonight’s performance was unacceptable.”

Denver’s starting unit was nonexistent besides Nikola Jokic who had 22 points and 16 rebounds but even he was minus-27 on the floor. It was the Nuggets bench who brought the energy and kept the game close at times and even managed to give Denver an 11-point lead at one point in the game.

Bone Hyland had 19 points while Bryn Forbes added 18. They both played an integral role off the bench but Malone chose to ride with his starters in the closing minutes, a decision he somewhat regrets doing.

“It was a tough decision there at the end,” Malone admitted. “Those guys had played so well to get us back into the game throughout the course of the night. I felt a few guys were at their limit in terms of fatigue but those guys did deserve to close that game out and it was a hard tough decision and one if I had to do over I probably would’ve just rolled with that group.”

As of late, the second unit has really started to click in all facets of the game from passing, to playmaking and also getting stops on the defensive end. Forbes knows that not every night is going to be a perfect performance by the starters but he stays supportive and does what he can to contribute off the bench.

“I think we all have some of them nights,” Forbes said. “Some nights the bench isn’t as good as the starting group. We got some very talented players in both groups and I believe in those guys just as much as they believe in us.”

The Thunder got off to a 9-2 start and shot 50% in the first quarter. The Nuggets managed to put together a 6-2 run to cut the lead and then finished the quarter on a 7-0 run to tie it up at 24.

The Thunder opened the third quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 60-57 lead. They were on fire from beyond the arc and hit five triples midway through the quarter to go up 71-67. Isaiah Roby knocked down three 3-pointers scoring nine of his 26 points. The Nuggets couldn’t match their energy and went 0 of 8 from long range before calling a timeout. Denver came out of the break with a 10-0 run and took a 79-78 lead. Hyland hit back-to-back 3’s followed by a Forbes 3-pointer and free throw. Oklahoma closed out the quarter on a 8-0 run after consecutive 3-pointers made by Bit Krejci who gave OKC an 86-79 lead.

OKC had a 10-point lead in the early going of the fourth quarter until Denver went on an 11-2 run. Forbes knocked down two triples and Hyland added another to cut their deficit to one but the Thunder weren’t going away. They went on a 5-0 to extend their lead back up to 106-98 with five minutes left and then closed the game on an 8-3 run to win it 119-107.

Denver’s starters were 0-20 from beyond the arc and as a team shot just 26% from long range. Oklahoma on the other hand shot 51% from the field and a staggering 55% from 3-point range.

The Nuggets still sit in sixth in the Western Conference standings with a 36-26 record. They have their next three games at home against the Rockets, Pelicans and Warriors before hitting the road to face the Sacramento Kings.

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