Denver Nuggets (16-11, 4-9 road) vs. OKC Thunder (20-10, 10-5 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.5 (9th), Nuggets– 111.4 (3rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 107.3 (18th), Nuggets – 109.4 (22nd)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (14th), Nuggets – 96.2 (3rd)
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
When this game was put on the schedule back in August as part of the NBA’s big “release” thing, I was psyched. Psyched that the Thunder was going to be part of the important regular season day in the NBA. Psyched that the Thunder was going to be playing in primetime on Christmas.
Now that it’s here? Not so psyched. Really, I’d kind of rather take Christmas Day easy, but then again, I could watch Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and be happy even if a zombie apocalypse were happening around me. So I’m not completely complaining here.
The game has lost a bit of its glitter with Carmelo Anthony out because of a death in his family. But still, Nuggets-Thunder always seems to provide some excitement. Oklahoma City has always had some issues with Denver, but the one time the Thunder got Denver without Melo, OKC handled them.
Denver coming in: The Nuggets have lost three of five and have struggled away from home this season. They last played Wednesday, losing in San Antonio.
Chauncey Billups returned for Denver against the Spurs and looked relatively healthy. Russell Westbrook has a big edge athletically, but Billups is an above average shooting point guard, so Westbrook will have to really watch Billups with on-ball screens.
Kenyon Martin also returned, playing some light minutes. Al Harrington also gets a lot of minutes at power forward, so currently the Nuggets don’t have a real strong interior presence. Nene has always been a major problem for the Thunder, but that’s typically been because a healthy Martin has made the tandem tough to guard. But right now, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison might be fine.
Arron Afflalo will slide to the small forward to play for Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith will start. Smith can score in bunches and probably sees this as a big opportunity. Thabo should be okay there and Kevin Durant has a big size advantage on Afflalo. Afflalo can really shoot from outside – as can Smith – so OKC has to be aware of the drive and kick.
The lights will be on Oklahoma City tonight as the entire league watches this young team primetime on Christmas. It’s an exciting event, but more importantly, this is a big division game and a good opportunity to pick up a win on the Nuggets.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Santa Durant.