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Thunder top Nuggets 96-86 in preseason finale

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished their preseason on the road in Denver with a 96-86 win over the Nuggets. It was a very physical game and had a much higher intensity level than expected, with it being preseason. Thunder’s physicality on defense and Russell Westbrook’s 20 points led the way to victory.

Russell Westbrook might’ve had a bigger scoring night had it been a regular season game. He put up 18 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor. He finished the night with 20 points and seven assists in only 26 minutes played.

Westbrook also picked up a weird flagrant foul early in the first quarter, after completely shoving Nikola Jokic to the ground when trying to set a screen. From there on out, the physicality and intensity of the game picked up immensely.

Oklahoma City jumped out to an early lead and kept a fair distance between them and Denver for most of the night. It was only a late third quarter run by Denver that got them back in the game. That was answered by a plethora of threes midway through the fourth quarter by Oklahoma City to essentially seal the win.

Paul George was also impressive tonight, and seems to be the guy Billy Donovan wants to run the second unit with. He was a little too passive in the first half, but made the right adjustments in the second half, and caught fire from three in the fourth quarter. George hit four of his five made three-pointers in the fourth, putting this game away for Oklahoma City. He finished the night with 19 points, 11 boards and five steals.

Carmelo Anthony did his part as he chipped in 16 points of his own along with nine rebounds. Anthony seems the most comfortable so far with playing with Russell. It is very clear fast breaks are going to be very fun with this big three.

Thunder’s defense as a whole tonight was very physical and caused Denver problems all night. The Nuggets only shot 34 percent from the floor, and seemed out of sync for most of the night, offensively speaking. Steven Adams, who did an excellent job guarding Jokic, set the tone early defensively for Oklahoma City. He had three blocks by the end of the first quarter, finishing the game with five total.

Tonight, even though it was just preseason, The Thunder looked the part as a western conference title contender; Big plays from their big three, physical defense, and solid contributions from the role players.

Oklahoma City now has a good amount of time off until their next game, which will be the regular season opener on Thursday, Oct. 19. They will open the season at home versus the New York Knicks, in front of a Thunder crowd ready to see what this revamped Thunder team can do.

Things To Watch

How the big three play together: A

The big three combined for 55 points, 21 rebounds, and 12 assists in limited minutes, which is pretty impressive. When all out on the court, the ball movement was efficient while the shot making was even better. It was just preseason but the Thunder’s three will continue to develop chemistry, but it seems to have developed pretty well so far.

Stay healthy: A+

No one for Oklahoma City left the game because of injury, so this was a success. Patrick Patterson was held out but he should be ready to go for the season opener next week. We did see the first minutes of the season from Alex Abrines tonight. He looked healthy, and obviously hit the weight room this past offseason. He hit both of his shot attempts tonight, one being a three-pointer. He played about 15 minutes.

Hey bench, show up: B+

The bench was once again pretty solid, led mostly by Terrance Ferguson and Josh Huestis. It should no longer be a question if Huestis will get real minutes or not this year, because he’s proven once again they need to give him minutes. He finished the night with 15 points and nine rebounds. He hit four of his nine attempts from three, and was very active defensively. It is also a huge advantage knowing Billy Donovan will have at least one of the big three out on the court at all times this season when the bench is in the game.

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