OKLAHOMA CITY — The little things, sometimes, can be big.
The Nuggets are hoping for just that kind of impact from their season-ending, 111-105 victory over Oklahoma City on Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
No, this wasn’t about playoffs. But it was about winning. It was about winning the final two games of the season, no matter if they weren’t for postseason play. It was about getting to 40 victories, a nice cap on a season in which the Nuggets improved by seven wins. It was about beating Oklahoma City, a team that had won nine straight games over the Nuggets.
That vanished. Nikola Jokic made sure it did, making huge shots down the stretch to seal the victory for the Nuggets. It was a big season-ending night for Serbian center, who scored 29 points with 16 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks.
Jokic led. The rookies followed.
Jamal Murray was good again as the point guard of record. Malik Beasley got some minutes at point guard as well, but started at shooting guard and poured in 17 more points after hitting for 16 the night before in Dallas.
The Nuggets have insisted their future is bright. The result of the game – on a night in which Russell Westbrook was honored by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for breaking the record for triple-doubles in a season – gave glimpses into that. Oscar Roberston was in the building. The Nuggets shut out all of the distractions and handled business one last time.
So the Nuggets finish the season with a 40-42 record, eclipsing the 40-win mark for the first time since 2012-13. They ended the season with wins in five of their last seven games to get there.
The Flow. After waiting 10 minutes for the game to start following a ceremony to honor Russell Westbrook, the Nuggets started out fast, getting out 10-3 lead before the Thunder punched back. Once again, rookie Malik Beasley was key, scoring half of those points right out of the gate. But things slowed. Turnovers marred the end of the first quarter, and the Nuggets scored just 15 points in the last eight minutes of the first quarter. The second quarter saw the Nuggets fall into a 15-point hole before digging themselves out. By halftime they’d shaved the lead to just eight, 64-56. Nikola Jokic joined Beasley and Jamal Murray as the Nuggets leading scorers to that point.
The third quarter was nearly all Nuggets. They hit the Thunder with a 26-14 run to take an 82-78 lead. Then it was game on. Jokic was putting up big numbers. But it was a 13-4 run to start the fourth quarter that gave the Nuggets the separation they needed. They never relinquished the lead and held on to win.
Deciding run. The Nuggets started the fourth on a 13-4 run, which gave them a 99-89 lead. That was all the cushion they needed to get the victory.
Nuggets standouts. Nikola Jokic stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks. Jamal Murray had 27 points and six assists. Malik Beasley finished with 17 points. Mason Plumlee had 16 points.
Stat of the game. 53: The Nuggets had 53 points in the game scored by rookies.