It’s been a weird season so far for the Denver Nuggets, trying to find some identity and consistency. The kind of basketball they played in the win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Ty Lawson and Randy Foye, is exactly what this team needs to stick to, while Kevin Durant continues to struggle in a one-player kind of mode his team is slipping into.
Durant is putting up incredible numbers recently, averaging 34.2 points over the last five games. But the Thunder are 4-4 since Russell Westbrook was injured, and Durant scoring 30 points in 28 minutes didn’t really help his team. Not with their defense, and not when most of his points have nothing to do with team basketball, but everything with him getting a little too much help from referees, finishing with 15-of-16 from the line.
The Nuggets won 101-88, and it wasn’t even that close, as an entire fourth quarter of garbage time allowed the Thunder to get some points for their terrible bench players, who can’t afford to be this inconsistent on offense with Durant needing offensive help so badly as long as Westbrook is out, which is going to be for at least another month.
This wasn’t the most efficient of basketball performances from the Nuggets, but they’re once again playing fast, uptempo basketball which masks the fact that they’re not playing with an actual center (small-ball has always been a problem against the Thunder) for about half the game. Lawson was only 6-of-15 from the field, but having to play against someone like Derek Fisher certainly helped him keep the Nuggets one step too fast for the Thunder, resorting to their usual simplistic offense, which simply doesn’t work when Durant isn’t having a good shooting game.
Tonight, we didn’t get a lot of good looks offensively and we didn’t move the ball well enough. We took a lot of tough shots and our timing wasn’t where it needs to be and we missed a lot of 3s. Everything that happened tonight is correctable, which is good. It’s not that we had issues. The fact is, everything that we did wrong tonight we can go back and get better.
Randy Foye isn’t Andre Iguodala, and never was close. However, when playing in a defined role that fits his abilities, which means focusing on shooting the ball instead of playing some point guard, he shines. Foye hit six shots from beyond the arc to lead the Nuggets with 24 points. The same went for Evan Fournier, slowly coming into his own instead of being toyed with by Brian Shaw. Suddenly defining roles for players is making this Nuggets team look like its supposed to, even if things can be a bit more orderly at times, which means Brian Shaw still has some work to do.
Ty Lawson finished the game with 16 points and 14 assists. He won’t make the All-Star game, but there are few point guards in the league playing better than him at the moment. The Thunder had a great day on the offensive glass with 12 offensive rebounds, something that distinguished them, especially at home, last season. Playing in this kind of pace and energy is going to bring out these advantages to light, and it’s something Shaw needs to keep striving towards, even if deep down he would love to see a half court offense type of team.