Thunder Bench Excellent, Fuels Big Win Over Denver 103-90

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Thunder set a great defensive tone early, executed their offense great down the stretch and benefited from stellar bench play as they rolled to a 103-90 win over division rival Denver. Durant scored 24, Westbrook scored 23, but the big story of the night was how well the bench performed.

Sefolosha played only 12 minutes, but it was just enough to move everyone back to their customary roles. Cook moved back to the second unit and responded well knocking down a couple big shots. Jackson looked much more comfortable and confident. He pulled down a couple big offensive rebounds and ended the game with a career high 5 boards.

Thunder fans’ relationship with Thabo has been a rollercoaster over the last couple of seasons. His impact on the offensive end is limited, but he brings so much to the table defensively. This team is so masterfully assembled with role players that when one of those players is missing, it can throw things off base. No one fits this bill more than Thabo. The Thunder are obviously still a good team without him in the lineup – they have the best record in the West largely without his contributions – but, with him, they are at another level.

The perimeter defense that has been lack luster over the past several weeks was much improved last night. Denver was able to get dribble penetration last night, but the Thunder did a great job of limiting the effectiveness of that penetration. The help defense and communication was very good. The closeouts on shooters were very good. The Nuggets had to work for every basket, which is what you have to do with the Nuggets. If Denver is allowed to have easy baskets all night, they are very dangerous.

Aside from a stretch in the second quarter, the Thunder played a focused, high-energy game throughout. They didn’t let Denver jump out to a lead like OKC has done over the past several games. OKC played with a lead for a large portion of this game. Much of that can be credited to the energy on defense and the ball movement on offense, especially the second team.

Post Game Grades

Turnovers: B
Oklahoma City forced 15 Nugget turnovers, while turning them into 24 extra points.  On the other side of the coin, the Thunder turned it over just 13 times. What’s scary is that this could have been a lot lower. Westbrook turned it over seven times by himself.

Three-Point Shooting: A
Oklahoma City put the clamps down on the Thunder tonight. Forcing Denver to go 5-22 from three point range. Oklahoma City felt fine in the Mile High City, hitting 12 of 23 three-pointers, very intrumental in this victory.

Blockout: B
Oklahoma City might have been out rebounded. However, they limited the Nuggets to just 10 offensive rebounds. Can’t really say this was due to the absence of Nene, because they didn’t have him last month, and the pounded the boards against the Thunder. This was a really impressive victory.

Thoughts on the Game

  • I can’t say enough about how well the bench played. It felt a lot like last season when the bench would come in and not just maintain the lead but also extend it!
  • It is very hard for a rookie to come in and be expected to lead. So much responsibility is being placed on Jackson this season. Many of the fans have been down on him, but it’s time to face it, Jackson will be the back-up point guard for the Thunder’s championship run in 2012.
  • Even though his title is point guard, last night was a great example of how I think the coaches will use him going forward. He will bring the ball up sometimes, but most of the time James Harden will have the ball in his hands to initiate the offense. Jackson will be expected to use his athleticism to impact games rather than his play-making ability. He showed this last night by playing great defense and skying for some important offensive rebounds. Jackson is a very athletic player. He is slowly finding his role on this team. I think by playoff time, he can contribute in a way that impacts games positively.
  • Thabo his a three tonight. I missed those!
  • KD got into foul trouble tonight. That is one way to know that the refs weren’t great.
  • I though Westbrook had a fantastic bounce-back game from his late-game meltdown against Houston. He didn’t gamble as much on defense and kept Lawson in front of him most of the night. He also didn’t force the issue. He played measured and undercontrol most of the game.
  • I really wish Kenneth Faried played for the Thunder. He is a big ball of energy. He is really fun to watch. It seems like he is always around the ball making plays.
  • Oklahoma City out shot the Nuggets, something that’s a rarity for OKC. The limited turnovers and offensive rebounds were key in this stat.
  • I don’t know if I can remember the last time that Oklahoma City had more assists than their opponent, happened tonight.
  • Oh, and Scott Brooks got a technical? Wow.

Next up: OKC vs. the Spurs Friday night at the ‘Peake on ESPN – 8:30 start time.


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