Thunder (42-15, 16-11 road) vs. Nuggets (37-22, 24-3 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 113.0 (1st), Nuggets– 109.9 (4th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.8 (8th), Nuggets – 106.0 (14th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.6 (8th), Nuggets – 94.9 (2nd)
View from the enemy: Roundball Mining Company
Not a big game in terms of the grand scheme of the season, but certainly a big game in that the Thunder need to continue some of the positive momentum and vibes they’ve built after losing three straight recently. They head to one of the league’s toughest places to take on a Nuggets team that’s certainly finding a groove themselves. All things considered, this appears to be one of the toughest tests yet this season for OKC.
The Nuggets are 24-3 at home this season, with one of those wins being a dramatic overtime victory over the Thunder. It was a great game, one in which the Thunder furiously came back sparked by Russell Westbrook. The Nuggets outplayed OKC in a lot of ways that night but almost survived on the backs of Durant and Westbrook.
Winning in Denver is a major achievement, but the Thunder really need a good, solid win to feel good about themselves. They’ve been smashing teams as of late and while a 30-point win over Denver would be wonderful, seeing as that’s unlikely, just picking up a road win over a very good team would be a nice little boost heading into the stretch run of the regular season.
Denver coming in: The Nuggets beat the Blazers in Portland on Wednesday.
Three Big Things
1. Points in the paint. The Nuggets are incredible at scoring in the paint. When they’re at their best, they pile them up. They had 78 (78!) against the Lakers with 50 (50!) coming at halftime. If they’re operating the way they want, they’re going to attack the paint like crazy. That’s where Serge Ibaka has been so good against Denver in the past. He didn’t really show up in the last meeting. But typically, he’s as important a player as the Thunder have against them.
2. Transition. The Nuggets like to play fast (second in pace), but really like to speed up tempo in their building. They like to fast break off of made baskets, off of misses, off of turnovers, off of anything. The Thunder sometimes are vulnerable against that sort of thing and while OKC plays well when it plays fast, it’s about proper tempo control.
3. Russell vs. Rocky. Will there be a Round 2?
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Russ.