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Thunder vs. Nuggets: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Nuggets: Pregame Primer



Thunder (8-8, 2-4 road) vs. Nuggets (6-9, 3-4 home)

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 8:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 101.2 (19th), Nuggets – 101.2 (20th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.2 (10th), Nuggets – 104.8 (19th)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are trending all over the place. To start the season, they were one of the worst offensive teams, struggling to score in the triple digits. Slowly, but surely, they are improving on that side of the ball as the season has progressed. Unfortunately, they are trending the other way on the defensive side of the ball. Very early in the season, the Thunder were the top team, in terms of defensive rating. They were muddying up games and giving themselves chances at the end of games.

Lately, though, it’s has been a revolving door of opponents getting into the lane and points being scored in the paint. The things the Thunder were doing well at the beginning of the season (i.e. stopping penetration at the initial point and protecting the paint) have waned since their hot start. I’ve put a lot of that onus on Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo, but the reality is teams usually break the game open when the bench is on the floor. The combination of young players and bad defenders is usually the perfect combination for either losing a lead or watching a deficit skyrocket.

What’s the solution to this? I don’t know. Head coach Billy Donovan is slowly starting to look like ex-coach Scott Brooks in that a problem is present, but the coach is unwilling to make any big changes to shore up the situation. Maybe the solution won’t present itself until the team makes another trade. The roster, as is, is unbalanced and way too young. While the young players are gaining invaluable experience that will help them in the future, I don’t know if the team intended to sacrifice this year for future gains. Especially not when Westbrook is heading into the prime years of his career.


  • Cameron Payne (foot)

3 Big Things

1. Protect the Paint

The Nuggets a team full of athletic guards, mobile big men, and 3-point shooters. The key to all of this is shutting off access to the paint. If the Thunder are able to do, they’ll be able to shut off the Nuggets’ main source of offense.

2. Attack their bigs

On the flip side, the Nuggets big men are prone to getting into foul trouble against quick, athletic guards. In addition, they try to rotate on everything, which opens up the opportunity for offensive boards and easy drop offs for the Thunder bigs.

3. Just win

In the beginning of the season, the Thunder found ways to win. Lately, they’ve been finding ways to get behind early, fight and claw to get back in the game, and then, eventually, lose a close game in heartbreaking fashion. The Thunder just have to find a way to win.