Denver Nuggets (50-27, 18-21 road) vs. Okla. City Thunder (48-29, 25-13 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.3 (13th), Nuggets – 112.1 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.3 (8th), Nuggets – 107.4 (16th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (14th), Nuggets – 94.8 (5th)
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
(First, let’s do a small giveaway: Closest to guess Kevin Durant’s total points, plus Russell Westbrook’s total assists, plus Jeff Green’s total rebounds, plus Nick Collison’s total charges drawn gets a free, advanced copy of David Berri’s new book, Stumbling on Wins. Leave your guesses in the comments. Berri authors The Wages of Wins Journal. You can read more about Stumbling on Wins here.)
This isn’t going to be an easy game to get ready for. I know this because I’m not even ready to watch it, much less if I were a player having prepare it. I’m still worn out from last night. So with the team arriving back in OKC around 1 or 2 AM, then having to get over playing 53 minutes of basketball, plus the heartbreak, there’s a pretty giant excuse for some early flatness.
But with the magnitude of this game, they’ve got to get over it. And us too. I totally feel like moping into the Ford Center tonight and sitting on my hands for two hours while I think about how good Deron Williams is and how much I would’ve liked to have won. I don’t know how they plan on pulling it together for a big game, but this will be a test of their maturity. The best teams suck it up no matter what happened 24 hours ago. Back-to-backs are part of the NBA. Remember when San Antonio lost to Atlanta in overtime and then turned around and beat OKC at the Ford Center the next night? They’re a veteran group and they knew how to pull it in for 48 minutes. Let’s hope the Thunder can do the same.
Denver coming in: While the Thunder walks in with heavy legs, Denver last played Saturday night against the Clippers. Denver is a mediocre 18-21 on the road and just 5-5 in their last 10.
We’re at that point in the season where we’ve seen teams enough to know what to expect from the matchups, especially when we’re talking division opponents. Carmelo vs. KD will be a treat. Oklahoma City doesn’t have anyone to guard Nene inside. Chauncey Billups torches Russell Westbrook when Russ goes under picks. And the Denver bench always comes up big for them.
But tonight, there’s no Kenyon Martin, who is a large part of Denver advantage on the inside. With Serge Ibaka’sdrastically improved play, with Nenad Krstic playing better and Jeff Green toughening a little inside, I don’t hate the matchup as much as usual. Melo and Durant will each get theirs, but who will step up and fill the statsheet in support? If it’s J.R. Smith and Chauncey Billups, Denver will win. If it’s James Harden, Westbrook and Green, OKC has a great shot. It’s honestly as simple as that.
The last four opponents have topped 100 against the Thunder. ENOUGH OF THAT. We’ve got to get our energy goin’ at the defensive end. OKC has got to get back to what’s made them good. Get stops, lock down and play hard, sound, fundamental defense for 48 minutes. That’s what it’s going to take to win in the postseason and it’s probably what it will take to win tonight.
OKC needs this game for more reasons than just the playoff race. There’s still a good chance these two teams will meet in the playoffs and the Thunder needs to build some confidence against the Nuggs. And also a win to wash away last night.
Tip at 7:00 CDT. Go Utah Still Sucks.