The Denver Nuggets got blown out by the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night.  The game was an ugly one for the Nuggets, who lost by 22.

The Nuggets are in an in-between stage at this point in time. They are not rebuilding, but they are not contending, either. They are rather going through growing pains, similar to what the Thunder went through in the early stages of the franchise’s existence.

“We had flashes where it looked like we could compete with them,” said coach Michael Malone following the loss. “It comes to show how far we are away.”

The Thunder are a team that is playoff proven and durable, and that is exactly what Malone envisions the Nuggets being in the future.

“That team is playoff tested,” Malone said in reference to the Thunder. “One day we aspire to be like the Thunder, like the Spurs, like the Warriors, teams that can win 60 games and do it with ease.”

The Nuggets are trying to find their identity with their young core, similar to what the Thunder went through when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were getting acclimated in the NBA.

“It’s not going to be easy, we knew that going in,” said Malone. “There are going to be growing pains especially with as many young guys as we play … Hopefully our guys can understand why you win, why you lose, and why the great team’s win so consistently.

“It does give me hope, but this is also a wake-up call,” Malone said. “We have done some good things, but we have a long ways to go and a lot of hard work ahead of us.

The Nuggets have shown their flashes of greatness this season, but they’ve also stumbled mightily.

The Nuggets have three games remaining on their schedule, all against playoff-caliber team’s. If they treat these opportunities right, they can learn a lot from the teams they’re aspiring to be.