Billy Donovan brought in yet another starting lineup tonight, with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot at shooting guard. It didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference; TLC did a decent job of clearing the boards when called upon, but a shooting guard, one hopes, will actually make some shots. Then again, hardly anyone in Thunder blue was making shots for most of the night; the shooting percentage didn’t budge much from 30 percent for the whole game, and the Nuggets at one point held a 25-point lead. With three minutes left, OKC had pulled to within six, and shortly thereafter squeaked their way to a five-point deficit. But Denver’s knack for coming up with second-chance points, and the Thunder’s inability to get even first-chance points, resulted in a thumping Denver win, 105-98.
One of the major objectives was to neutralize center Nikola Jokić, who came in averaging 17 points a game while terrorizing the area around the rim. Didn’t happen: Jokić did not shoot well — 6-20 — but he still came up with 16 points. (Then again, Trey Lyles led the bench with 16, and he didn’t miss a shot all night.) Jamal Murray led all the Nuggets with 23; Denver shot a blah 41 percent, still four percent better than OKC.
Paul George, five fouls notwithstanding, led the Thunder with 24 points and 11 rebounds; Jerami Grant, five fouls notwithstanding, was back in double figures again with 13, and Russell Westbrook put together a 16/10/12 triple double despite shooting only 6-23, 1-12 (!) on the three-ball, and you can probably guess how many fouls he had. Fortunately, the Nuggets were not so great at the foul line, hitting 17 of 24; then again, OKC, at 15-23, was worse. Dennis Schröder led the reserves with 18.
So once again, Denver has the Thunder’s number: they’ve won five of the last six, with three more to come this season. Next week, it’s a couple of Eastern squads that have fallen on hard times: the Cavs on Wednesday, followed by the Hawks on Friday. Then it’s an Eastern road trip, against Detroit, Brooklyn and Chicago.