Oklahoma City Thunder (18-46, 5-26, road) at Denver Nuggets (40-25, 23-8 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Time: 8:00 CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.6 (28th), Denver: 108.9 (11th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.3 (20th), Denver: 106.5 (10th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.7 (8th), Denver: 93.9 (7th)
In two meetings so far this season, the total difference between Oklahoma City and Denver has been three points. A 122-120 game in January and a 114-113 game in February with two Carmelo buzzer beaters.
And so far in March, these two squads have been headed in different directions. OKC is 4-1 this month while the Nuggets are 1-5, and stuck in three-game skid. But you know Denver is looking at tonight’s game as a “get back on track” game against the Thunder. Denver’s next five opponents are all under .500, so they’re probably looking forward to getting some *easier* wins.
But as we know, nothing comes easy when you’re playing the Thunder. Kevin Durant is a big maybe for tonight (more like a big unlikely), but as we’ve seen, OKC can win without him. But the Nuggets are one of the league’s best at home (23-8) and like I said, they’re wanting this one. A loss tonight could send the Nuggets into a complete tailspin.
Add on that this is the second back-to-back for OKC in under six days with a depleted roster, so there could definitely be some jello legs. It’s a big shot in the arm to have Uncle Jeff back, but in steps The Uncle and out steps Nick Collison with a groin injury. Ah, the revolving door of NBA injuries. (No word if Collison will be back tonight.)
As always, defense is the name of the game for OKC tonight. For the season, the Thunder’s giving up over 103 points per game, but in their last six, the Thunder’s giving up 90.3 ppg and have kept five of six of those teams under 100 points (the one being NOLA, which is the only team the Thunder lost to in that stretch). In fact, OKC has kept three of those six under 90 points. As Scott Brooks said recently, it really is just about effort and helping each other. These guys are playing hard on that end of the floor. Every possession is a war and they are taking it personal that you want to put the ball in their basket.
Speaking of defense, I can not wait to watch Thabo lock up with Carmelo Anthony. It’s a tough, tough match for anyone because Melo can back down in the post, he can drive or hit can hit jumpers. He uses pump fakes extremely well and gets to the line a lot. But as evidenced perfectly during a possession last night, Thabo is very disciplined and does a good jumper staying put on head fakes. Rashad McCants gave Thabo a good one and Thabo left his feet barely, recovered and got into a defensive stance without giving McCants any ground. In the previous two meetings Melo has torched OKC for 31 and 32 and beat the Thunder with a last second shot each time. I’m not saying Thabo will shut him down, but it’s nice to have a quality defender to stick on him tonight and it should be a fun matchup to watch.
In neither of the previous two meetings is there one stat that you can really circle and say if only OKC had done that better… The rebounds were even, the turnovers were down, they shot well, they hit free throws and they forced turnovers. They were both really well played games that Denver just happened to win.
This will probably be a very tough game for OKC to win based on the fact Denver needs it, it’s on the road and the Thunder’s coming off another back-to-back. But that doesn’t mean they’ll lay down and die.
Tip at 8:00 CST. Go Thabo.