What to do in Oklahoma City if you've got nothing to do? Comment on the wind? Tell people about how impressed you are with the flat terrain? Pretend you like the Sooners?
Two things as we start. First off a happy Holidays to every Stiff out there. Hope every one of you has a great day today. Secondly I am deathly ill...possibly feverish. Please forgive my rundown because it may be affected by the aches and pains and violent coughing.
The Nuggets head to OKC to take on everybody's darling (and apparently everybody's model for blowing up the team) the Thunder and newly anointed "good guy" Kevin Durant (more on that later). The Thunder are coached by former Nuggets assistant Scott Brooks (reigning coach of the year) and along with Durant they have a great starting five consisting of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Jeff Green (I'd include Serge Ibaka...but...out of a lack of anything to say I'll just move on) Nenad Krstic is out with a bad back...but was he ever really there?
The Thunder also have some good, but not great depth off the bench in the form of young Cole Aldrich and Thabo Sefolosha (try spelling that name when you're sick). They carry a 20-10 record with them into tonight's game and are second in the Northwest division, one game behind the division leading Utah Jazz.
I'd like to say some things about Kevin Durant. I've never bought in to the declaration that Durant is anything but a scorer (like Carmelo Anthony). With their team essentially modeled after the Nuggets in terms of structure and reliance on a flashy wing player, it's interesting to see how KD has become the model citizen of the NBA. Don't get me wrong, he's a great scorer and with that 6-10 frame it makes him that much harder to stop...but I'm sorry. I'm not seeing the big deal. I personally think part of the Kevin Durant love is he signed his contract extension quietly over the summer (nearly the identical contract Melo signed after his third season) and it's a reaction to Lebron James and "The Decision" . What's not arguable is his value to the Thunder and the offense they run (which is similar to George Karl...only with slightly more drawn up plays) and you have to give it up to the Thunder for overcoming a couple games when Durant was injured.
Nuggets of Wisdom
With Carmelo Anthony sitting out this game because of the death of his sister (deepest sympathies to he and his family) it will be up to the Nuggets to once again overcome a tough opponent on the road short handed. There was some crisp movement of the ball and, quite frankly, you could definitely tell the difference that Kenyon Martin made in the Nuggets lineup from the start. While Kmart only played 17 minutes, all of them were valuable and he effectively shut down Tim Duncan. J.R. Smith continued his stellar play in place of Melo in San Antonio. It's fascinating to watch J.R. blossom into a better player this season after George Karl benched him (essentially) for three games earlier this year. Yes, he still does some knuckle headed things, but the efficiency and "under control" play that Earl has been displaying since has been great.
Ty Lawson has also been playing quite well. When Ty attacks the basket it's amazing to see how he can break a defense down (much like Russell Westbrook). Chauncey Billups came back the last game and played under control for the most part, still question some of his shot selection. Nene has receded back a bit in the last couple of games. Most likely because teams are now double teaming him in the post. It's a sign of respect, but Nene needs to handle it better than he does. Stay aggressive big man. We need you now more than ever.
As ever, the Nuggets need to come together and play smart with Melo out. I think the last game proved that the Nuggets as constituted (without Melo) will struggle when "closing time" comes. Those are things that Carmelo provides that are not easily replaced. I look forward to seeing a complete team in the near future. With Melo coming back we should get the truest test of where the Nuggets are at as a team in the coming days.
Go Nuggets. Happy Holidays!! Ho ho ho /cough cough!!
Oppositions Take: Welcome to Loud City