Preview 19 of 82: Nuggets @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CST
The Thunder (12-6) return to action tonight in Oklahoma City, facing the Denver Nuggets (12-7) on the second night of back-to-back. Fresh off last night’s 109-104 victory over the Hornets, the Thunder are now tied for the lead in the Western Conference and get their first crack at a Nuggets team that figures to be a season-long contender for the Northwest Division crown.
Tip-off is at 7:00 P.M. CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 5.5-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Hamidou Diallo: Out — Ankle
- Terrance Ferguson: Out — Ankle
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Isaiah Thomas: Out — Hip
- Will Barton: Out — Hip
- Michael Porter Jr: Out — Back
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Steven Adams
Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Juancho Hernangomez, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
What to Watch For
Starting Five. Dennis Schroder entered the starting lineup at shooting guard in last night’s win over the Hornets. It’s yet to be seen if that will stick, but with Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo still sidelined with ankle injuries, Schroder figures to get another chance to run with the starters.
The Big Men. This one features two of the premier big men in the league, as Steven Adams and Nikola Jokic are set to do battle. Adams has won most of his individual matchups this season, even holding Anthony Davis to a less-than-stellar effort on November 5. However, Jokic will be a test, as his ability to score, rebound, facilitate, and stretch the floor should keep Adams busy all evening. Jokic comes in averaging 16.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and is hitting 34.8 percent of his attempts from long range.
Closing Out on Shooters. The Nuggets have no shortage of firepower from long distance, as Gary Harris and Jamal Murray will require a lot of defensive attention on the perimeter. Neither of them is off to a great start, with Harris hitting 32 percent from deep and Murray converting on just 31 percent of his. Regardless, they’re both capable of scoring at a high volume and capable of taking over a game if left unattended. Harris hit a game-winner over the outstretched arms of Russell Westbrook last season in OKC — so the Thunder know the risk involved with lazy defense against the Nuggets.
Grant/Millsap. An interesting matchup in this one is at power forward — Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap. Grant is off to a strong start this season, averaging 11.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. Millsap comes in with a line of 13.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks. Although Millsap isn’t the player he used to be in Atlanta, he’s still a formidable matchup for just about any power forward in the league. I’d like to see a bit more Nerlens Noel if Millsap gets rolling while Adams is busy defending Jokic.
Offensive Glass. The Thunder are first in the NBA with 13.3 offensive rebounds per game. The Nuggets are currently tied for eighth with 11.8 per game. Both teams thrive on creating second chances off the offensive glass, and both are currently top 12 (Denver 4th, OKC 12th) among teams that give up the fewest offensive rebounds to opposing teams. The squad that can win the battle on the offensive boards will likely have an advantage on the scoreboard.