The OKC Thunder were unbeaten in the bubble until Monday and learned valuable lessons in their first loss.
Shortly before Billy Donovan met with the media to handle pregame questions fans learned the Thunder bench boss had been voted by his peers as co-winner for Coach of the Year (Bucks – Mike Budenholzer).
Immediately thoughts of all good things happen in three’s sprang to mind. And with that, the hope the celebrations occurring in the Thunder segment of the bubble would be capped by a victory over the Nuggets.
Unfortunately, the trilogy didn’t come to pass.
Yet, sometimes a loss can offer up as much if not more value in the lessons learned which was the case on Monday.
OKC Thunder learn 3 valuable lessons in loss to Nuggets
It sure wasn’t for lack of trying as the shorthanded Thunder took to the hardwood to face an equally shorthanded Nuggets squad. From the onset, this contest never quite had the cadence of pace typical of a Thunder match.
If we’re completely honest even clutch time didn’t garner the same confidence it typically does. Mind you when there are 70 foul calls made it has the effect of never allowing the game to catch a natural flow and rhythm.
Controlling pace and tempo are essential to OKC Thunder
That played directly into the Nuggets’ hands. Denver runs the second slowest pace in the association and star Nikola Jokic prefers to move at a methodical pace particularly without Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton on hand.
The Nuggets took full advantage of the constant stoppages in play and an extremely erratic whistle that didn’t allow OKC an opportunity to figure out what was acceptable. That led to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander picking up his fifth foul at 6:51 of the third-quarter. Without Schroder that put undue pressure on Chris Paul.