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Nuggets vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Nuggets vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Nuggets (12-18, 7-9 road) vs. Thunder (20-10, 13-4 home)

TV: FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.0 (2nd), Nuggets – 100.6 (23rd)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 98.9 (7th), Nuggets – 105.5 (27th)

Other than the actual game, probably the most disappointing thing of Christmas day was the fact that the Thunder couldn’t make up a game in the standings to the Spurs. While they didn’t lose a game in the standings by virtue of the Spurs also losing, this was definitely an opportunity missed. The Spurs and Warriors are on the type of roll where it will be difficult for any team to catch up to them.

Now back to the putrid performance that was the Christmas day game. Other than a 15-3 run to close the first half, the Bulls completed dominated the game. The most frustrating part was the Bulls doing to the Thunder what the Thunder have done to so many other teams. The Bulls opened the game on an 11-0 run. Then, with the Thunder threatening at the beginning of the second half, the Bulls opened up the 3rd quarter on an 8-0 run and ended it on a 9-2 run to turn a 2 point halftime lead into an 18 point lead heading into the 4th quarter. This effectively ended the game.

This is the 2nd of 4 meetings between these Northwest Division rivals. The Thunder won the first meeting 117-93. In that game, Kevin Durant lead 7 Thunder players in double figures with 25 points in 28 minutes of action.

The Opponent

The Nuggets come into the game with a 12-18 record. The Nuggets have had injury issues of late, with three of their core players suffering lengthy injuries, Danilo Gallinari (ankle), Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle), Jusuf Nurkic (knee), and one of their veteran core players, Wilson Chandler, being out for the season due to hip surgery. Despite the injuries, the Nuggets have been surprisingly competitive in some games and have victories over the Raptors and Houston Rockets (x3).

As is the case with injuries, when one player goes down, another one has to step up. And the Nuggets have had several players step up in place of their injured comrades. Will Barton has been a pleasant surprise this season, averaging 15.7 points, 6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals. Another player that has stepped up is rookie big man Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds in his last 5 games. Kenneth Faried still gives the Nuggets energy up front, getting most of his point on hustle plays. Gary Harris is slowly developing into the Nuggets’ shooting guard of the future. His development reminds me of that of Alec Burks of the Utah Jazz. Jameer Nelson has made the most of his opportunity with the Nuggets, playing the veteran role on the young Nuggets team.

3 Big Things

1.Russell Westbrook

The only point guards on the Nuggets roster are Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye, both much smaller than Westbrook. While the Nuggets may try to hide them on Andre Roberson, if they keep them on Westbrook, look for him to post up a lot in this game.

2. Bounce Back Game

The Thunder have the possibility of running off a good amount of wins in the next month. The schedule is very light, with only 7 of their next 19 games being against teams with above .500 records. That run of 19 games starts tonight, and the Thunder could build a lot of collateral heading into a much harder run in February and March.

3. Thunder Centers

Steven Adams and Enes Kanter should have big games tonight. Nikola Jokic, Joffrey Lauvergne, and JJ Hickson are either too small or too skinny to keep up with the two Thunder behemoths. The alley-oop game between Westbrook and Adams should generate at least 8 points tonight.

Slump-buster (The opposing player most likely to either break out of a slump or have a career game):

Mike Miller – Just because he’s Mike Miller and he’s playing against the Thunder.