Oklahoma City Thunder (12-10, 6-4 road) vs. Denver Nuggets (17-7, 10-1 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.3 (22nd), Nuggets – 113.4 (3rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.0 (6th), Nuggets – 106.2 (15th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.1 (19th), Nuggets – 95.7 (3rd)
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
Two things to get you revved up for this one. Here you go and here you go. Those two games went a long way in making me dislike the Nuggets. I like Carmelo Anthony, a lot because he likes Oklahoma City, but in general, I don’t like the powder blue bunch.
But here’s the thing: Those two heartstoppers came in Oklahoma City at the Ford Center. In Denver, the average margin was 11.5. And coming off a closer-than-it-looked loss against the Cavs last night, the Thunder would really like to straighten themselves with a giant road win. And you know what? It’s entirely possible. With the way this team has played on the road this year, I don’t think it’s crazy to say it happens. I’m not going to, I’m just saying it’s not crazy.
The Nuggets come in off a win against the Suns Saturday night, but before that had lost two straight. Sound familiar? That’s almost exactly the same line I typed in yesterday’s pregame about the Cavs. George Karl has been disappointed with Denver’s defense this season, but offensively, they’ve been pretty awesome. Carmelo leads the league in scoring and around him are three other very capable scorers. Obviously Denver is a sparkling 10-1 at home, but who is that one tick against? Minnesota.
I would bet Thabo would get Carmelo, much like he had LeBron for most of the game last night. It makes sense to me because otherwise, KD can guard Aaron Afflalo, who will likely be guarding him. Durant won’t have to work so hard defensively and can avoid foul trouble. Because Lord knows ‘Melo sticks fouls on people. Nene was an impossible matchup for OKC last season, and while the Thunder aren’t a whole lot better inside, somebody like Serge Ibaka could add vital minutes on Nene. Nene is a bruiser that wants to dunk, dunk and dunk some more, but Ibaka is going to be willing to challenge him.
Chauncey Billups is a tough head-to-head for Russell Westbrook because of Russ’s penchant for going under screens. When you do that to Billups, he stops and drains a 3. Billups is a good defender, but I’ve got to think Westbrook is going to try and attack him a little tonight. Russ played semi-poorly last night and typically he bounces back well.
The Denver bench is scary because there is some serious instant offense coming off it in J.R. Smith. He can play 15 minutes and score four points or he could play 25 minutes and score 21. You never really know. Chris Andersen is a presence in the middle and he’s going to try and block everything. However, OKC has had a little success on the Birdman, in the forms of this, this and this. Ah, I love watching those three clips.
Denver is an efficient team that makes open shots, runs the floor and hits the glass. All in all, the Nuggets are one of those teams that I just don’t feel like OKC matches up well against. It’ll take a big game from someone other than Durant to get it done tonight. Maybe James Harden is on fire from outside. Maybe Westbrook creates and scores. Maybe Krstic gets his 18-footer going. Something like that is going to need to happen.
The way I look at it, OKC needs to go at least 1-3 in these four tough games before the REALLY tough road trip. That’s just at least. Going 2-2 would be a huge boost. The Thunder are already down one with the loss last night, so stealing one in Denver could be a big, big, big win to build more confidence toward a .500 mark for the New Year. Just don’t break my heart tonight ‘Melo. At least someone else do it.
Tip at 8:00 CST. Go Road Thunder.