Denver Nuggets (31-14, 10-11 road) vs. Okla. City Thunder (24-21, 12-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.6 (21st), Nuggets – 112.3 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.1 (4th), Nuggets – 106.2 (13th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.2 (18th), Nuggets – 95.3 (5th)
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
(Channeling Les Miles) This is NOT what we wanted. It’s NOT what we planned, today. It’s not ideal for Oklahoma City to be 0-1 on this homestand facing a potential four-game losing streak against the very talented Nuggets. But if there is good news, it’s that Carmelo Anthony might not play. The Denver Post says he likely won’t. (One reader emailed me when Tim Duncan didn’t play in OKC and said, “The evolution of an Oklahoma City NBA fan: Instead of being upset the other teams star isn’t playing, we now celebrate when he’s sitting out.” Yep, perfect example with ‘Melo tonight. Don’t play ‘Melo. Rest that ankle.)
Knowing the potential magnitude of this game and the way the Thunder faded in the last one, you’ve got to think they’ll come out excited and focused in this one. There aren’t any must-win games in late January, but Oklahoma City kind of needs this one. So we’ll call this one a kind-of-need game.
Denver coming in: The Nuggs are hot. Hot like fire. They’ve won 10 of 11 and eight straight. They last played Wednesday night against the Rockets in which they won without Carmelo. But they aren’t a great road team as they’re just 10-11 away from the Pepsi Center. That’s encouraging.
If ‘Melo plays, we’ll have the marquee scoring matchup of Durant v. Anthony. That will definitely be fun. Last time, Durant “won” the head-to-head, outscoring ‘Melo 32-31. But if he doesn’t, it’s former Cowboy Joey Graham taking on KD. Graham isn’t bad, but I mean, come on, how can you replace ‘Melo?
The one matchup that OKC just never seems able to counter is Nene. He always pummels the Thunder inside with a barrage of dunks. Obviously Nenad Krstic can’t match him and Nick Collison is too small. Serge Ibaka is the hope but I don’t think he’s ready to shut down someone like Nene.
Chauncey Billups is a tough guard for Russell Westbrook mainly because Billups can hit mid-range jumpers. Westbrook has issues there because of addiction to going under screens. Thabo against Aaron Afflalo is all defense, though Afflalo can hit an open 3.
The Denver bench is strong with Chris Andersen, J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson coming off it. Overall, OKC just doesn’t match up well with Denver. Some teams do. The Thunder just can’t seem to match the Nuggets’ size and strength.
Oh, and insert mention here of the weather and how you should be careful going downtown. But you know that already. It kind of sucks because this is a really important game against your division leader and the crowd will be sparse because Oklahoma has been turned into a skating rink. Hopefully that doesn’t affect the energy of the team. Heck, maybe they’ll play better because they’re great on the road and most times there, they’re playing in front of an empty arena.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Be Safe Driving to the Ford Center.