OKC Thunder (2-0, 0-0 road) vs. Denver Nuggets (0-2, 0-0 home)
Series: OKC leads 2-0
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
Not only have the Thunder taken an all important 2-0 lead, but they did it while sort of crushing the Nuggets’ spirits as well. Oklahoma City completely dominated Game 2, leading by as much as 26 while never letting the lead get under 10 in the second half. Postgame, Denver did not appear to have much confidence as it prepared to go back home.
But sometimes, that’s all it takes. Going home. Playing in front of your own people can often pump some life and confidence back into you. And that’s what the Nuggets are banking on.
This is it though for Denver. They know it. Lose this game and the series is effectively over. Not only has no one ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, but if that were to happen to the Nuggets, I think they were be entirely crushed.
Which is exactly why the Thunder to step on they throats, as Perk would say.
The Nuggets tried to adjust in Game 2 but the plan sort of backfired. At this point, just forget about trying to defend Kevin Durant. You really can’t. The Nuggets tried doubling in Game 2, but that just opened the floor for OKC’s role players who lit Denver up.
The main adjustment I see the Nuggets making is figuring out a way to unstuff the paint. The Thunder did a terrific job completely plugging holes in Game 2, forcing Denver to take all contested jumpshots. The Nuggets really thrive on inside-out play between Nene and the guards as well as penetration and kickouts from Ty Lawson.
OKC’s defensive strategy is to turn you into a jumpshooting team. The Nuggets can survive in that regard if they’re hitting — like they did in Game 1 — but if they aren’t, it turns into ugly offensive basketball like in Game 2. Denver has to figure out a way to get players like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari going (just 3-14 combined in Game 2) as well as Nene, J.R. Smith and the “little guys,” as Karl calls Lawson and Ray Felton.
Arron Afflalo returns tonight for Denver and our friends in the mountains are really counting on him making a massive impact. He missed the first two games and is someone that the team the Denver fans seem to really be trusting to make a difference. And he certainly can. He’s a good shooter and a long defender to try on Durant. Question is how healthy he is.
My initial pick for this series was the Thunder in five games and everything is on track for that. And this is the game I see OKC having trouble winning. The arena will be fired up and emotional and the Thunder could have trouble finding a win on the road. This Thunder group needs to figure out how to win away from home at some point, but I just get the sense the Nuggets are going to find a little confidence tonight.
This is OKC’s series to lose still and one win for the Nuggets could inject them with a bit of life and potentially push them to steal another game. A loss for Denver and this thing is entirely over. This game could swing the series a bit. Either the Nuggets will get back in it, or it’s pretty much all over.
Tip at 9:00 CT. Go Three-Oh.