Denver Nuggets (24-16, 9-14 road) vs. OKC Thunder (30-8, 18-3 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 112.7 (1st), Nuggets– 108.4 (8th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.9 (6th), Nuggets – 105.2 (13th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.5 (8th), Nuggets – 94.0 (4th)
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
The Thunder get a brief respite from their biggest road stretch of the season with a pitstop at The Peake. And they get a team they’re obviously very familiar with, divisional rival Denver who has finally started living up to some of its preseason hype.
The Nuggets are a pretty fascinating team. They don’t operate with any go-to “star” type of player, but rely on balanced scoring, transition offense and a bunch of lineup versatility. Sometimes, it makes them downright scary to any team in the league. Other times, it makes them easily beatable. They are good though — don’t mistake that. It’s just that their approach hasn’t matched up well against OKC the past three years.
But this game is quietly important, mainly because of what’s ahead. The Thunder went 3-0 in their quick West Coast road trip, which was excellent. And after tonight, they head out for five more away from home. It’s one of the most challenging stretches of the season. Which is why you can’t give this one away at home. Lose tonight and it’s quite the downer as you head out again. Plus, it’s against a divisional team with a good amount of history with. Losing to the Nuggets is never fun.
Denver coming in: The Nuggets topped the Blazers in overtime last night.
Three Big Things
1. Ty Lawson. He’s really the engine that makes the Denver car run. When he’s scoring and dicing teams up, the Nuggets have that go-to player in a lot of ways. Lawson can be extremely dynamic and has seemed to find a good rhythm the past few weeks.
2. Get back. Denver’s bigs love to release and run the floor. OKC’s bigs have had problems with that. Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee have gotten a number of easy buckets in the past against the Thunder simply by beating OKC’s big guys down the floor. That can’t happen. The Nuggets can’t beat OKC in a 48-minute halfcourt game. The Thunder just match up too well.
3. Hope Ibaka plays. That second point is largely assuming Ibaka plays. Because he’s been a big part in slowing down Denver’s paint-oriented attack. He registered a triple-double against the Nuggets and averaged six blocks a game against them last season. He’s questionable tonight and having him to protect the interior against Denver’s slashing wings is very important.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Thun. Der.