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Thunder vs. Nuggets: Five takeaways from OKC's loss at Denver

The Thunder started its five-game road trip with a 119-101 loss at Denver on Tuesday night. 

Here are five takeaways from the game: 

Second chances 

Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets toyed with the Thunder around the rim. 

Denver outscored OKC 32-3 in second-chance points and 62-44 in the paint. The Nuggets secured 18 offensive rebounds to the Thunder’s nine and attempted 19 more shots than the Thunder.

“That was kind of the game in the first half, right?” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We did try to address it at halftime. I thought the guys did make a concerted effort to move forward there, but it was a little too much.” 

Jokic grabbed five of those offensive rebounds. There was no one to push back against Denver’s superstar center without Al Horford (personal reasons) in the lineup. 

Isaiah Roby started at center for the Thunder. Roby played well on the offensive end, but he was overpowered by Jokic in the post. 

It wasn’t for a lack of effort. Roby stepped in front of Jokic in the third quarter to poke away an entry pass. That led to a dunk from Darius Bazley. 

“It’s just another really good experience for him,” Daigneault said of Roby. “Obviously it’s a tough cover right now, but I don’t think it’s a long-term tough cover for him. I think this is a matchup that he should be able to handle long-term. We see him as that kind of player.” 

Jokic, who’s averaging a triple-double, scored 27 points with 12 rebounds and six assists in just 28 minutes. 

The Nuggets, in addition to beating the Thunder on the glass, also took advantage of 19 Thunder turnovers. Denver outscored OKC 28-16 in points off turnovers. 

Nuggets overcome slow start 

Denver shot just 37% in the first quarter, but the Nuggets put together extended runs in the second and third quarters to build a big cushion. 

The Nuggets shot 50% in the second quarter and 56% in the third quarter. Denver won the middle quarters 66-43. 

The Nuggets entered the night with the No. 3 offense in the NBA behind the Bucks and Clippers. 

Dort, Dort, Dort

What else is there to say? Luguentz Dort was terrific on both ends Tuesday night. 

He bothered Nuggets guard Jamal Murray so much that Murray plowed through Dort when trying to get free on an inbounds pass in the second quarter. It might have been worth the offensive foul to release his frustration. 

“He’s a really good player,” Dort said of Murray. “I just go out there and make it tough for him.” 

Dort limited Murray to five points and four assists on 2-of-10 shooting. 

“It’s not a broken record in that it’s really hard to do every night,” Daigneault said of Dort’s defense. “It’s hard to play well every night, it’s hard to compete every night as it is.” 

And unlike last season, Dort’s offensive output is keeping up with his defense. He scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He shot 3-of-6 from 3-point range. 

Dort made 30 3-pointers in 36 games last season at a 30% clip. He’s made 31 3-pointers in 13 games this season at a 44% clip. 

Roby’s offense

Roby only shot 3-of-9, but he flashed some encouraging skills on offense. 

In the first quarter he faked a pass, and then drove through Murray for a nice and-1 finish. He recorded three assists and shot 1-of-3 from 3-point range. Roby is quietly shooting 7-of-18 from 3-point range this season. 

He also collected nine rebounds and four steals Tuesday night. 

“I think Roby just gets better every game,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “His confidence is starting to get there. We knew he had the physical tools and the skill set to play at this level.” 

Expect Roby to start at center for as long as Horford is out. 

Two-way time

Josh Hall scored six points in the fourth quarter. 

Moses Brown flushed a late dunk and also finished with six points. 

Both of the Thunder’s two-way players were in action Tuesday night with the game out of reach.

Darius Miller, Justin Jackson and Thunder rookies Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon also received an extended look. 

Jackson scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting. 

“I thought they really played the right way, which you never want to take for granted, especially with guys that aren’t rotation players right now,” Daigneault said. 

Related Photos
Jan 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) controls the ball as forward Isaiah Roby (22) screens Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) and center Nikola Jokic (15) looks on in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) controls the ball as forward Isaiah Roby (22) screens Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) and center Nikola Jokic (15) looks on in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4960addf87ae67277771135d585b5f6f.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) controls the ball as forward Isaiah Roby (22) screens Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) and center Nikola Jokic (15) looks on in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) controls the ball as forward Isaiah Roby (22) screens Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) and center Nikola Jokic (15) looks on in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) controls the ball as forward Isaiah Roby (22) screens Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) and center Nikola Jokic (15) looks on in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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