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Denver Nuggets struggle to score in preseason loss to Thunder

T.J. McBride Avatar
October 19, 2016


The Denver Nuggets came into Chesapeake Energy Arena without their starting back court of Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris, Darrell Arthur still recovering from a knee scope he had done in the offseason, and Wilson Chandler sitting out to get some rest after playing in the Nuggets’ first six preseason games.

With the recent rash of injuries, the Denver Nuggets started Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Jokic, and Jusuf Nurkic across from Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, Domantas Sabonis, and Steven Adams for the Thunder. From the start, it was obvious the Nuggets were not shooting well.

It seemed like the Nuggets may have been fighting fatigue from the immense travel schedule considering that it is still preseason and it showed in the shooting stats. The Nuggets shot a paltry 34.8 percent from the field and an even worse 4-25 from the three point line for an atrocious average of 16 percent from beyond the arc.

The Nuggets lackluster shooting led to the loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder 97-87 after the Nuggets lineup of Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Robbie Hummel, Juancho Hernangomez and Jarnell Stokes had attempted to right the ship in the 4th quarter and drag the team back from the depths of a 20-point deficit at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Nuggets play their worst half of basketball of the preseason

The first half, highlighted by the Nuggets going 0-13 from the field to start the 2nd quarter, was a dumpster fire offensively. The ball was not moving at all and led to inefficient isolation post-ups for Jusuf Nurkic and one-on-one drives to the rim for Gallinari. The Thunder took advantage and pushed their lead to 18 points. The first half ended with the Nuggets trailing 59-41.

The offensive struggles of the first half were not due to impenetrable defense from the Thunder by any stretch. The Nuggets had nine turnovers in the first half and missed more open threes than I could count (I tried), leading to the worst offensive half of basketball all preseason.

While shooting nights this horrendous are rare, the bigger concern was seeing the Nuggets’ offensive principles crumble when facing adversity. While relying on Gallinari to drive to the rim and draw a foul was an easy way to bail out an extremely young team last season, it should not be accepted this year. The Denver Nuggets have talent at all five positions and should be able to play a much better brand of offense regardless of the situation.

Jamal Murray’s defense may translate better than previously thought.

Murray was projected as a below average defender at the next level. For a long time, I have agreed with that line of thinking but the way Murray has played on-ball defense has truly surprised me. His energy and intensity on the defensive side of the ball when rebounding or running through screens to stick with his man is beyond admirable and has translated to the NBA much more efficiently than previously thought.

While Murray may never be a plus on the defensive end it is his energy and intensity on defense that can take him from a pure scorer to an all-around player. He does not have to be a stopper, especially if he is playing point guard, but if he can become passable on defense it will make his case to take over a starting position in the backcourt much more viable this season

One last tidbit on Murray’s defense. Who can honestly say that Murray collecting three blocks in seven games is not one of the most surprising aspects of his game this preseason? He has shown explosion and burst defensively and if he can continue blocking shots and fighting through it will go a long way in relieving the pressure of other teams scouting his defensive inefficiencies.

Nurkic still has a long way to go to become a top-flight center.

Nurkic and Adams were each in attack-mode and were battling down low from the second the game tipped-off. While they seemed to be playing each other mostly even for the first quarter it was Nurkic that ended up getting out-played the rest of the matchup.

Adams gave Nurkic a very clear picture of where he needs to improve. The size and strength of Adams prevented Nurkic from scoring at the rim. Nurkic only shot 1-8 from he field and looked out-matched by the much more polished Adams.

Defensively, Nurkic left a lot to be desired. He allowed Adams to put up 17 points on 8-12 shooting with 9 rebounds and zero turnovers. Nurkic had no answer for Adams floater from outside the restricted zone or his much more veteran low-post game.

Adams is absolutely a player that Nurkic should be emulating. Being a 7-footer that is outstandingly strong but still uses more finesse skills such as passing and a soft touch on shots outside of the restricted zone while still owning the ability to play bully-ball in the low-post is the type of player that Nurkic hopes to become and that Adams already is.


Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma | October 18, 2016 | Preseason Game No. 7


Danilo Gallinari again proved that he is still the Nuggets go-to player when things get tough. On a night that every single Nuggets rotational player struggled to score from any spot on the floor, it was Gallinari’s ability to get to the free throw line in isolation that kept the game from becoming a complete flogging.

Gallinari shot an awful 4-13 from the floor but found a way to get to the charity stripe 11 times, making nine of those attempts. Those free throw attempts allowed Gallinari to still have a stat line of 18 points, three rebounds, and one assist in 28 minutes through nearly three quarters and was easily the best offensive player in a Nuggets jersey.

When the ball stops moving and the young Nuggets begin getting flustered, as all young players do, the responsibility will continue to fall to Gallinari to bail out the offense as he did in spurts last year. He was the best Nuggets player on the court tonight and that trend should continue throughout the year.





The Denver Nuggets head home for their final preseason game at the Pepsi Center against the 2-3 Dallas Mavericks. Nikola Jokic will face arguably his toughest test yet taking on future Hall of Fame power forward Dirk Nowitzki. This will be their final team rehearsal before heading to New Orleans to officially start the 2016/17 Denver Nuggets season on October 26th at 6pm mountain time.

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