In a game in which the Thunder never really led the short handed Denver Nuggets sent the Thunder back to the NBA’s reality with a 109-98 loss on Friday night.

The loss is Oklahoma City’s third in their last four games and their second straight. The worst part about the losses? Two have come against really quality competition and the other was a horrible loss to probably the NBA’s worst team, the Chicago Bulls.

Oklahoma City never found their rhythm all game long. They fell behind early and by a large margin. It was due to the hot shooting of the Nuggets. The Nuggets hit their first six threes, putting Oklahoma City behind by double digits in the first quarter. The Thunder never recovered.

If we’re putting immediate blame on a Thunder loss, it’s going to be their inability to make free throws. Oklahoma City shot 17-of-29 from the free throw line (58.6 percent). It’s the third time this season Oklahoma City failed to shoot at least 60 percent from the free throw line and it killed them.

You make half those free throws and how you manage the end of the game changes. Instead of being down half the points in the first half. You’re not digging yourself such a hole.

While the Thunder gave it their best effort behind Paul George’s 32 points, it was also the lack of defense in the Mile High City that was the most concerning. Sure, Nikola Jokic is a phenomenal player, He pulled down 15 rebounds, including some really key tip outs. They were the killer. While the Thunder continue to try to rely on their athleticism and not their fundamentals in times where it’s the most key, it led the Nuggets to tip out missed shots for wide open threes.

We’re not even getting into how Russell Westbrook hasn’t been himself and we have no real explanation why. Well, him missing contested late game shots that he probably shouldn’t have taken is himself, but we miss the Westbrook that would take over games.

For whatever it is, the Thunder are slouching at the wrong time. Fan base can see it. I’m sure the players can see it, too. Though, everyone was melting down over an 0-4 start and look where the Thunder are now. They’re still third in the Western Conference with another tilt against a potential playoff contender on Saturday night, the LA Clippers. Win that and everyone chills out for a minute.

Oklahoma City (17-10) has a difficult next 15 games up. While only six are teams with winning records. They play San Antonio twice, Dallas twice, The Clippers, at Portland, at Lakers, at Houston, at Utah , and at Sacramento a place Oklahoma City has already lost this season. The schedule is getting brutal for the Thunder. They have to find a way to go any where from 8-7 to 11-4 over the next 15 games. You’re going to win some games you probably shouldn’t and lose games you shouldn’t. If you can keep your playoff position as they flip into the new year.

The Thunder will try to forget this loss immediately as they have a home SEGABABA against the LA Clippers Saturday at 8 p.m. on FS Oklahoma.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.