Nuggets Thunder Basketball

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) tries to take the ball away from Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown (11) during overtime of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It took 5 more minutes than Michael Malone would’ve preferred, but Bruce Brown and Vlatko Cancar stepped up to help the shorthanded Nuggets survive the Thunder 131-126 in overtime Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Nikola Jokic led the way with 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and it was Brown who recorded a triple-double, the first of his career. His 17-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist performance, along with four steals, made him the first Nuggets player other than Jokic to record a triple-double since 2013.

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Aaron Gordon scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, as the Nuggets erased Oklahoma City’s 15-point deficit to force overtime, but Cancar had three highlight blocks and finished with a career-high 20 points to go with five assists and four rebounds. Cancar reportedly earned the team’s defensive player of the game chain.

Without Jamal Murray (recovery from illness) and Michael Porter Jr. (heel contusion), the Nuggets started Brown and Davon Reed alongside Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Gordon and Jokic. Jokic was aggressive early, scoring 14 of his points in the first quarter. The Nuggets were also without reserves Bones Hyland (illness), Jeff Green (bone bruise), Ish Smith (calf strain) and Peyton Watson (illness), leaving Michael Malone with 10 available players. DeAndre Jordan was available but did not play, leading to some heavy lifting for the most productive players on the second night of a back-to-back. Brown played nearly 45 minutes. Jokic played more than 43. Caldwell-Pope also played more than 40, while Gordon (38) and Cancar (35) weren’t too far behind.

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Whether the reasoning was to decrease the workload for the available players on a back-to-back or an attempt to slow Oklahoma City star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Nuggets used a zone defense early and often. Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 31 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, while Isaiah Joe made 7 of 10 from 3-point range for 21 points.

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A strong stretch from Cancar and Jack White helped the Nuggets lead by 19 early in the second quarter, but the Thunder closed strong to make it a six-point game at halftime. The Thunder took their first lead 3 minutes into the third quarter and led by 15 early in the fourth. The Nuggets answered with an 11-0 run to get back into it before Gordon and Jokic combined to score Denver’s final 25 points of the fourth.

Gordon scored the first point of overtime before Brown’s 3-pointer made it a five-point game. Cancar cut for a layup to preserve the margin with 90 seconds left.

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What went right: The Nuggets dominated inside, posting advantages in rebounds (64-49), offensive rebounds (17-12), second-chance points (19-12) and points in the paint (54-46). The Thunder entered the game leading the league in paint points per game with more than 57.

What went wrong: The Nuggets spent a lot of energy winning the game twice. The hot start should’ve been enough to reduce the burden on the second night of a back-to-back set, but Denver allowed 42 points in the second quarter and lost the third 34-15. Jokic played 79:53 between Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games, and the Nuggets don’t have much time to recover before returning to the court.

Highlight of the night: Cancar started the second quarter in style. First, he head faked his defender into the air, stepped into the vacated space and finished with a reverse layup. Then, the reserve forward had a chase-down block on Thunder forward Eugene Omoruyi. The two plays happened 31 seconds apart.

On deck: The Nuggets get Thanksgiving off, but that's it before playing in Los Angeles against the Clippers on Friday.

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