Nuggets vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

denver-nuggets vs. okc-thunder

Nuggets (14-22, 7-11 road) vs. Thunder (21-16, 13-6 home)

TV: FSOK
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.0 (15th), Nuggets – 106.0 (12th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.3 (11th), Nuggets – 110.1 (29th)

Well this is definitely not how the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted January to start off. Three road games; three close losses. My mother, who is sometimes more emotionally invested in this team than I am, has a saying that goes, “I’d rather the team lose by 20, than lose by one. At least it wouldn’t hurt so much if they lost by 20.” And while that sounds almost backwards in terms of fandom, it kind of makes sense. When a team gets blown out, you see it coming from a mile away during the process of the game. In fact, you can almost turn the game off earlier than usual because you already know the outcome. But in a close game, you’re almost forced to sit there and endure the emotional torture that comes from losing a close game. It’s an almost masochistic form of enjoyment.

And that’s where the Thunder have been the last 3 games. They’ve played bad, but not bad enough to get blown out. They usually start the games hot, but taper off as soon as Russell Westbrook rests his fanny on the bench. Then they claw their way back into games in the fourth quarter, only to fall short because of an offensive rebound here or a questionable foul call there. Those are the differences between last season’s team and this season’s team. Last year, the Thunder consistently put themselves in these close game situations by playing lackadaisically for the first 42 minutes of a game. This season, with the talent collection on the team being much lower, the Thunder are scratching and fighting their way into having chances to win a game, but sometimes falling short due to lack of experience in close games.

Season Series Recap

This is the second of four meetings this season between the Northwest Division rivals. The Thunder won a close game in overtime in their first meeting, 132-129, behind a triple-double from Westbrook (36 points, 11 rebounds, 17 assists).

The Opponent

The Nuggets come into the game with a 14-22 record, having lost their last 4 games. As a team that is in the middle of a rebuild, moral victories can sometimes be substituted for actual victories. In their latest 4-game swoon, the Nuggets have kept the games close against the likes of the 76ers (2-point loss), Warriors (8), and Kings (7).

The Nuggets are in that strange purgatory of having high priced veterans that could be trade assets and young, cheap talent that is currently developing. The Nuggets are one of those teams that can be both buyers and sellers at the trade deadline. They have 10 players that average between 17.1 points and 8.1 points. There’s great balance on the team, but no one player that consistently steps up in crunch-time.

Injuries:

None!

3 Big Things

1. Pace

Its usually the case that I want the Thunder to play fast. But against a team like the Nuggets, I think it would be better if the Thunder slowed it down a little. Not necessarily Grizzlies slow, but enough to prevent a 116-118 game. The Thunder are talented enough against the Nuggets to run some half court sets.

2. We Must Protect This House!

The Thunder have only 3 home games this month. They need to take full advantage of them.

3. Cam Payne

After missing the first quarter of the season with a broken foot, Payne returns back to the lineup. I’m pretty sure Payne will play the same amount of minutes that Semaj Christon plays (12-15).

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