Denver Nuggets (32-16, 12-10 road) vs. OKC Thunder (11-37, 8-17 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 102.5 (28th), Denver: 109.7 (8th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.1 (20th), Denver: 105.5 (8th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.6 (7th), Denver: 94.5 (5th)
Remember last time? Yeah, that sucked.
But that was when we still thought wins were going to come once every lunar eclipse. Now we realize any given night, these guys can beat anybody – especially at home. So that’s taken some of the sting out of that one. But still, screw you Carmelo and your awesome buzzer-beating capabilities.
There’s a major difference between this meeting and the last – Denver is going to be ready this time. There won’t be any sneaking up on them. They know what will happen if they come out flat. Chauncey Billups raved about OKC’s ability and desire and there’s no doubt the Nuggs will be ready. But even so, is that enough to beat the Thunder at home?
I know that sounds (or reads, whatever) a little crazy. But the Nuggets are coming off a grueler against the San Antonio jayvee team and they may have some heavy legs. Flip side, OKC’s coming in on three days solid rest, with the bad taste of an overtime loss to the Kings in its mouth. Plus, the Thunder’s been very tough at home lately, winning four of five at the Ford Center. The Nuggets are average on the road, sitting at 12-10. And on top of it, Denver hasn’t been on the road much lately, having played 11 of its last 15 at home. They’re looking at a three-week roadie, so a few mental naps are expected. Chauncey Billups sprained his ankle against the Spurs last night and is questionable for tonight. Kenyon Martin is sick and is questionable. So, all that adds up to… maybe the Thunder playing them tough again.
Matchup wise, I don’t think there’s any secret as to what we’ll see. Billups will hit big threes (if he plays) in Earl Watson’s face, Carmelo Anthony will score a bulk of points and guys like Linas Kleiza will drive you nuts by hitting four random threes in the second half. The key matchup is containing Nene. He’s built like a mountain and he’s an aggressive rebounder and a solid offensive threat. Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic will likely get bullied by him, so we may see a steady dose of Chris Wilcox on the Nuggs big man. We can only hope this is one of the random games Wilcox decides to play hard in.
The main key: limit turnovers. The Thunder seems to be figuring weaknesses out one at a time. First it was solving the offense. Then rebounding. Then free throw shooting. Still working on defense. But 20 turns against a top-notch team like Denver can be the difference in winning and losing. Limit turnovers, get all the “hidden points,” take advantage of free points and in general, just bust your butt. That’s what it will take to get sweet revenge on Carmelo Killjoy and company.