Gilgeous-Alexander leads Thunder past Denver
By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had his second career triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets 108-94 on Wednesday night.
Gilgeous-Alexander had the first triple-double by a Thunder player at home since Russell Westbrook during the 2018-19 season.
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Gilgeous-Alexander said his teammates told him he was closing in on the triple-double. He clinched it on a rebound with about a minute to go.
“I can’t keep track of stats when I’m playing,” he said. “I’m just trying to win and trying to make the best basketball play every possession on both ends of the floor and whatever happens, happens.”
Darius Bazley had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Lu Dort had 15 points and rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder. Oklahoma City claimed its largest margin of victory this season and improved to 5-3 since a 73-point loss at Memphis on Dec. 2.
“It would have been easy to go into a shell, making excuses — we’re a young team, blah, blah, blah,” rookie Josh Giddey said. “But credit to our guys. After that Memphis game, we wanted to come out and prove a point that that’s not the team we are. We don’t want to be remembered for that. I think since then, we’ve come out with an edge, a chip on our shoulders to prove to teams that when you come into our building, or when we come to you, it’s not going to be an easy game.”
Nikola Jokic had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Nuggets. The reigning league MVP entered the game averaging 26.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
Denver coach Michael Malone said the he didn’t like the way the starters were playing, so he sat all of them for the entire fourth quarter.
“As a coach, what I really care about is when you play and you compete and you play the right way,” Malone said. “We didn’t have that from our starting group.”
Denver had won three of four, but hadn’t played since Dec. 17. The Nuggets’ game against the Brooklyn Nets scheduled for Dec. 19 was postponed because the Nets didn’t have enough available players due to health and safety protocols and injuries.
Gilgeous-Alexander had nine points and two assists in the final four minutes of the first half to help the Thunder take a 60-52 lead. He had 19 points at the break. Jokic and Aaron Gordon each scored 10 points for the Nuggets.
The Thunder extended their lead to 16 points on a 3-pointer by Dort with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Giddey pushed Oklahoma City’s lead to 21. The Thunder led 88-66 at the end of the period.
Denver cut its deficit in the fourth with the reserves, but never got closer than eight points in the final period.
Malone respected the effort from the reserves, led by Austin Rivers’ 12 points.
“I really applaud the effort by our bench,” he said. “Those guys went out there and competed and played hard.”
Nuggets: Rookie guard Bones Hyland limped off the court in the second quarter, and returned in the third. He finished with five points on 2-for-7 shooting. He was coming off a career-high 24 points against Atlanta. … Forward JaMychal Green played after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury. He had three points and seven rebounds.
Thunder: Mike Muscala, one of Oklahoma City’s most steady players this season, rested. … Held the Nuggets to 27% shooting in the first quarter to take a 28-18 lead. … Gilgeous-Alexander scored 11 points in the second quarter. … Giddey finished with 14 points.
Gilgeous-Alexander, on Oklahoma City’s strong recent play: “Just trying to move forward. Look at every day like an opportunity to get better and learn from the previous days. We try to do that every day, whether that’s watching film, at practice, on the road or playing a game, and we know that ultimately, if we do so, we’ll get better.”
In his past 10 games, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 25 points and 6.2 assists per contest. He did not play in the blowout loss to Memphis.
In three games since being moved to a reserve role, Bazley is averaging 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while shooting 54% from the field.
Nuggets: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.
Thunder: Visit the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
Oklahoma City 108, Denver 94
Gordon 5-11 1-3 12, Je.Green 2-5 2-4 7, Jokic 5-9 2-2 13, Barton 3-11 0-0 7, Morris 3-5 3-3 10, Cancar 2-5 4-6 9, Cornelie 0-1 0-0 0, Ja.Green 1-4 0-0 3, Nnaji 0-4 0-2 0, Campazzo 3-9 1-2 9, Hyland 2-7 0-0 5, Reed 3-5 0-0 7, Rivers 4-8 2-4 12. Totals 33-84 15-26 94.
OKLAHOMA CITY (108)
Dort 5-13 1-1 15, Robinson-Earl 5-11 3-4 14, Favors 5-8 0-0 10, Giddey 5-11 3-4 14, Gilgeous-Alexander 10-24 7-7 27, Bazley 7-11 2-3 17, Pokusevski 0-2 0-0 0, Roby 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 1-3 0-0 2, Jerome 1-1 0-0 2, Mann 3-9 0-0 7. Totals 42-94 16-19 108.
Denver 18 34 14 28 — 94
Oklahoma City 28 32 28 20 — 108
3-Point Goals_Denver 13-44 (Rivers 2-4, Campazzo 2-7, Cancar 1-3, Ja.Green 1-3, Je.Green 1-3, Reed 1-3, Gordon 1-4, Jokic 1-4, Barton 1-5, Hyland 1-5, Nnaji 0-2), Oklahoma City 8-34 (Dort 4-10, Bazley 1-3, Robinson-Earl 1-3, Mann 1-4, Giddey 1-5, Gilgeous-Alexander 0-7). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Denver 39 (Ja.Green, Jokic 7), Oklahoma City 60 (Bazley, Gilgeous-Alexander 11). Assists_Denver 21 (Campazzo 6), Oklahoma City 22 (Gilgeous-Alexander 12). Total Fouls_Denver 18, Oklahoma City 25. A_14,932 (18,203)
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