We now know who our first round opponent is, and I believe everyone sort of knew it was going to happen, but we are going to play the Oklahoma city Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. This could be our first, or last round in the playoffs, depending on your views and whether or not you are a pessimistic person, or a optimistic person. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been playing more back to backs than any team in the league since the all-star break however, and should be a little tired come playoff time, especially with how many minutes Westbrook and Kevin Durant have logged in this year. In the following article, I am going to do my own personal breakdown of the series, and why I believe that the Nuggets will prevail in this series, and why it will be the must-see opening round playoff series of this years playoffs.
Our Nuggets have been sizzling hot since Melo has left, going 18-6 since the trade occurred, however the Thunder have been even hotter since the trade deadline and dumping the weak link in their arsenal that was Jeff Green, and updating their roster with big bad Perkins. So how in the world do our Nuggets stand a chance against a team with such depth and talent? It's simple, beat them fire with fire, so now without further ado, take the jump with me, where those with arachnophobia should steer clear, and the brave souls to endear the long journey through Mordor with our courageous team to finally be rid of the ring and.. whoops, wrong story, we are trying to get a ring, well anyway, that is not the point, come take the jump!
Welcome to the jump, where we crank up the lever and the stakes get higher. Forget everything you knew about the regular season, because this is the new season, where you can't get away with high tempo offenses, and each possession is a grueling process. Where the referees let the players play unless you are playing against the Lakers or Heat, and all you need in order to win everything is 16 wins, 16 measly wins. Where the defense is intense and the offense is as nervous as Butler against UConn, and all the playbooks in the playbook are unleashed and every scratch and cut to the finish line is a productive one. Our Nuggets have been impressive since the all star break, as have the Thunder, however the Thunder have played 3 back to backs in April alone, as well as playing a big load of games since the all-star break due to their early schedule being pretty easy and full of breaks in between. The Nuggets hasn't been great, but the Nuggets schedule has been quite a bit fluffier than the Thunders.
Also, to give this fanpost a little edge, I have decided to add some intense music for this preview.
clubbed to death - Matrix soundtrack (via appiglio)
That's more like it, now to begin.
The Usual Suspects
Kevin Durant- Young, incredibly talented, and has a strong work ethic as well as a killer shot, he is a very fantastic shooter with the length of a center, I have seen him next to Dwight Howard and I think he has a inch or two over him, and that makes it very hard to disrupt his 3 point shots, he is a good rebounder despite his tiny frame, he makes his free throws, and has a good driving ability to the basket despite not being as athletic as his other scoring counter-parts such as Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James. Good thing for us he is not in his prime yet, that will have to wait 4 more years, which is actually not a good thing for us but I digress. He reminds me a lot of Alex English, except only taller, as Denver Stiffs reader Lack pointed out. If Durant is struggling, the Thunder's chances of winning diminishes, but not to a point where they are easy to beat, far from it. He also craves Skittles and thinks Oklahoma City is a great city, which just shows that he needs to get out more. He also secretly has a huge ego, but no one has proven it yet. Also for any Denver Nuggets players who are reading this, let me tell you a little secret about his game..He always goes right.
27.9 PPG- 6.1 RPG- 2.8 Assists
Who defends him- Some readers have suggested that Arron Afflalo should defend him when the playoffs start, but with Durant being 6'10 and Afflalo being 6'5 on a good day, I don't think that would be the best of ideas, some people say Danilo Gallinari would be too slow to cover Durant and with his toe being a little bothersome that might be true. But I think since Kevin Durant is not exactly known for his ability to get to the lane and finish, and Gallo having the rare body that Durant has in being a quick 6'10 player who can shoot over smaller players and run past bigger guys, I think Gallo would be best to guard Durant. However, I think that it should be a committee of different players guarding him, Wilson Chandler with his bulk and good defensive positioning should give Durant some different looks and once Durant starts to adapt we throw Gallo at him, then we throw Afflalo at him, I don't think it should be one player to guard him, instead George Karl should consider throwing different players at him and give him different looks, and the occasional double team, since Durants passing ability is mediocre and he is turnover prone as he is 20th in the NBA in turnovers.
My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious.
Russel Westbrook- I never trust people with a first name for their last name, and the same goes for people with a last name for their first name. Russel Westbrook is the lightning to the Thunder, and he is basically like that 2nd boss in a old Sega game before you get to the main boss, and many times, that 2nd boss is harder than the last boss. He is like a slightly watered down version of likely MVP Derrick Rose, and is a better passer in my opinion. He has the speed of Tony Parker, and is taller than most point guards at 6'3. He has a strong work ethic as well and he finishes at the rim like Rose, he pushes the ball like a Fat Lever type, and is a triple-double threat when he is running on all cylinders, and his scoring is up 5 points from last year. He can shoot the 3 ball as well as he is 40% from downtown this year. Make no mistake about it, but this guy is for real. He is Daniel Ortons secret twin, in case you didn't know. He also punches cute little rabbits when his 3 point shot is not falling.
21.9 PPG- 4.6 RPG- 8.2 Assists
Who Defends him- Westbrook might be fast, but he is not Tyray Felson fast. So this is a no brainer right? Well, not exactly, though Ty Lawson is fast, he is still 4 inches shorter than Westbrook, thus if Westbrook gets a little separation from Lawson, he will make easy uncontested shots as Lawson won't have the length to bother his shot. Raymond Felton on the other hand is 6'1, and can give Westbrook a harder time with cross over jumpers, but not much, still I think that for the most part Tyray Felton will be able to keep up with Westbrook to where the cross over jump shots are minimal. I also think that the always versatile Afflalo will be huge if he can play, because he is a very good defender and has the length to give Westbrook fits, I think that George Karl should throw Afflalo at Westbrook at unexpected times to give Westbrook different looks, but for the most part, I think that our speedsters will need to do what they do best defensively, cause Westbrook to turn over the ball, Westbrook leads the league in turnovers (see a trend here?) by over 25 turnovers to the next in line in this stat, who happens to be Lebron James. So if we can force Westbrook and Durant to turnover the ball and expose their weakness, and then capitalize on that on the other end of the court, we should be able to blow the game out to no return.
The Role players
Serge Ibaka- A rebounding pest, rebounding nearly 8 rebounds a game, his name always brings to mind Wookies, he can also dunk from the free throw line. He really is not a good shooter, but he is a good defender and gave Nene fits this year. He is sort of like Kenyon Martin in his early years, most of his scoring comes off put backs and dunks and he is a gritty defender and a true athletic freak in case you haven't seen his shirtless pictures. When Lawson and Felton penetrates for layups, he will need to watch out for Ibakas long arms swatting balls away, he is a very foul prone player though, so I think we should take it to the rim against him often and get him on the bench, and on offense, if we block him out, he won't be a very effective player as he is not a great offensive rebounder if I am not mistaken, I will need to check in with Denver Stiffs reader Chantech on that.
9.9 PPG - 7.6 RPG
Kendrick Perkins - 6'10 and 275 lbs, the man has made a living giving players like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum fits defensively despite not being a good scorer nor a good rebounder for his size. However like a Kenyon Martin type, he gives this team a certain toughness that the Thunder were lacking in the past 2 years. He loves to get under players skin such as Nene, who almost got into a wrestling match with Perkins in their first meeting as division rivals. A key into winning this series is for Nene to make Perkins chase him, so Nene needs to go back to his 2009 version where he ran down the court often as his center counterpart was huffing and puffing at halfcourt while Nene is running past his would be defender, since Nene is one of the fastest players in the league for his size. Another way to expose Perkins slowness is the pick and rolls, I know George Karl historically is not known for that many pick n rolls, but he will need to try it a bit in this series. It is the only way Nene will get points because Nene is not going to back down his defender, especially one as great as Perkins, and lay it in or dunk it, it's just not going to happen. It will be a methodical game of cat and smaller cat, if smaller cat is to prevail, he will need to outrun his rival.
5.3 PPG - 8.0 RPG as a Oklahoma Thunder.
BALL!, BALL!, BALL! I GOT THE BALL!
Plays on instinct, and can drive to the lane, a excellent third option on offense, he recorded the 4th highest percentage from 3 point land for a player under 21 years old, he also has a very nice beard. I think that Wilson Chandler will need to guard this dude, with Afflalo giving him different looks and make him shoot forced 3 pointers and not get him in the lane, as he is a high flyer himself. He is less effective shooting from the 3 point land, which is where the Nuggets will need to keep him, he can sort of ruin the Thunder's chemistry from what I have seen. He is still a very good complimentary player playing in Westbrook and Durants shadow. Also to note, guys with beards never win in sports, that's why Greg Pop shaved his off, so we have that going for us.
12.2 PPG - 3.1 RPG
He plays like Ryan Bowen on steroids... somehow that does not sound intimidating.
Nick Collison- Nick Collison is their version of Chris Anderson, he hustles, has no particular talent, but is faster than most stiff 6'10 players. He likes to get under players skins like Perkins, but instead of being a good one on one defender, he is better at help defense, he is a good blocker and likes to hustle for balls. He bugs me, and the only significant thing he has done against us is accidentally injure Timofey Mozgov, but that is exactly what he is, a walking, hand wobbling hustle player who brings in a random element into the game, you never know what he is going to do next, not even he does. He didn't meet Chris Anderson in the last 2 matchups, so that will be a interesting matchup. Sadly he didn't get his contract incentive of 10,000,000 $ if he had won the MVP award, maybe next year Nick!
4.6 PPG - 4.5 RPG
The rest of the crew
Thabo Sefolosha- a stiff, not a very good shooter, and is a adequate passer, but has been a huge disappointment for the Thunder this year. Also has a fetish for Swiss cheese.
Nate Robinson- tiny guy who can excite you with incredible dunks, for 2 minutes then put you to sleep after that. Has a ability to get hot however, so he needs to be kept in check.
Basically they have a good bench, one that reminds me of the very early Carmelo Anthony era benches of Voshon Leonard, Earl Boykins and whatnot, but it pales in comparison to the Nuggets bench, which will be key in this series, we needs to play like 2 sets of starting fives, Mozgov might be injured, but I think Chris Anderson will be a better backup big man against the Thunder than Mozgov, it's just a gut feeling you could say.
However, I DO NOT agree with them replacing their best player's arms with thunder sticks just so 'the people' can better identify with him.
I know you're not used to having a basketball team, but one of the first things they teach you at the town meeting the city holds when it's announced that you will be getting a new basketball team is to never replace your star player's arms with any sort of cheering apparatus. That's like Fandom 101, which is offered at any community college. Take a class, guys. Also, why is the guy praying? I know it's Oklahoma and all, but come on, that is a little over the top.
Now ladies and gentleman, let us change tracks and go with something to introduce our Denver Nuggets!
Jock Jams - Are You Ready For This (via TapperThaMan)
Nostalgia, it can be a beautiful thing, it can also suck, like Space Jam.
Our Denver Nuggets, the underdogs underdog, love them or love them, you got to love them. They have such a irresistible charm to them that even opposing teams bloggers can't help but root for them. I will now dissect our strengths and the weakness's we will need to patch up in order to win this sure to be battle of the equally talented squads.
"I would describe my game as a greedy person…I’m a hard worker… I’m a competitor…I’m gonna bring it every night…I’m a guy that will do anything to win." - Raymond Felton.
Tyray Felton- The duo point guard tandem with Tarheel Blood and enough grit to make John Wayne or Jeff Bridges proud, has been easily the best 1-2 punch at the point guard position this year, racking up assists, scoring baskets at will, and setting records in the process. Both players play in such a similar fashion that it's hard to tell whose who on the court sometimes because all I see is a blur running past defenders. They can be very effective with 1 or both on the court, Ty Lawson has a little bit of a edge in speed but not by much as Raymond Felton has a advantage in knowledge of the game and experience. Both will be pivotal in the playoffs, if they are not scoring, they will need to get others to score, if their teammates are not scoring, they will need to score, either way, this duo will give Russel Westbrook's impressive speed himself a breather, as Westbrook won't be able to keep up with both all game long, and Nate Robinson is not the quality back up point guard that Raymond Felton is, who was in the conversation for the all-star game this year.
320 Reasons to love these guys.
"50 wins this year … time to get healthy and go for 16 more"- Arron Afflalo
J.R Afflalo- Both of these players are having breakout years, the heart of a lion, and intelligence to back it up Aaron Afflalo has been scorching from behind the 3 point line, shooting over 40%, and has improved his ball handling very well, though not as athletically gifted as J.R. Smith, he has a work ethic that reminds me of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, something that legends are made of. He is my favorite player hands down now, and I have never rooted for a player more in my life, even though he is not the biggest talker in the world like Kenyon Martin, he still is a very emotional player, and strives to be the best, whether it's his great defensive ability, or his desire to be better in every facet of the game, he is truly one to root for. J.R Smith, who is having a great year himself, has now matured, and has carried the team with and without Melo all year long, making smart passes, and knowing when to shoot now, he is truly deserving of being a fan favorite. He has limited his knucklehead moves this year and is shooting near 40% from 3 point land himself, this shooting guard duo is one of the best in the NBA, if not the best just for the consistency that both have shown. Both are loved by the fans, and to no surprise as well.
Afflalo has more hops than J.R! This is my favorite picture from this season, sometimes true joy transcends a basketball game win, this picture proves it.
"I think if people don't consider me a good player," he said, "they're stupid." - Danilo Gallinari
Galson Chandlanari- Wilson Chandler and Gallo have proven themselves to be very good players coming from New York, and have made this team even better without Melo. Wilson Chandler carried the Nuggets offensively when he first arrived here, and even though his scoring has cooled down some, his defensive intensity has been shown every single game, especially in the must see Lakers game, which showcased Chandlers versatile defensive ability. Gallo, though clumsy has shown he gives it 100% every time he is out there, he is a true work horse and you can see the potential in him oozing out, he just has a it factor that only he can unleash, but it is there, and I hope he is a Nuggets for a long time, his defensive intensity is very fun to watch, though he isn't a great defender yet, I think he will be very good someday just from the effort we see from him, and on some days he has carried the team on his back. Both of these players will also be pivotal in the playoffs, they will need to give it 110% even though the playoffs is a unfamiliar world for both of them. I think they will shine since they don't have as much pressure on them as if they were to go to the playoffs in a Knicks uniform. Their defense on Durant will be key if we are to succeed in the playoffs.
They both look sleepy, Tim Duncan must be at the free thrown line.
"I'm sick of being hurt. Whatever I have do in order to play, I'm going to do, (whether it's) wearing back braces or whatever the case may be."- Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Harrington- Kenyon Martin has shown his toughness this year like he always does and showcased it on the court in the later part of the season as well, being back at his usual gruff self, he might not be the most talented player on the court, but he makes everyone better by being the leader. He will be key in the playoffs as he will need to bring his veteran leadership and his long playoff history and establish into these younger players minds to bring their game up and take it to the next level. If he Perkins is up in Nenes grill, Kenyon will get up in Perkins grill, Kenyon Martin also knows how to play some savvy defense, and he will need to keep Ibaka and Perkins from scoring above their season averages in point, which is not very, so it won't be difficult on that side of the court. I think Kenyon will need to score himself against Ibaka and make the Thunder respect his game, because in the matchups this year, the Thunder have left Kenyon open a lot, and dared him to take on the offense himself which is a smart move, but Kenyon will need to bring his toughness with him on each end of the court. Harrington, if you can get back to your early season game and knock 3 pointers, then that would be great, I don't expect anything out of you except a veteran presence and some offense. So please make it happen, and if you do, you will be awarded a swimming pool of cheese fondu, and a endless supply of cheeseburgers in the off-season.
Awwww shucks, just kiss!
"Santa in the House with Christmas Trees"- Nene
Nene Anderson- Nene as we all know will be very pivotal in the playoffs, but I am not so worried about him, Nene always seems to show up in the playoffs and has major games despite what some might say about his softness. If he can bring it like he did in the 08-09 playoffs, then I think we might be able to win in 5 games, I think the Perkins-Nene matchup will be the biggest one in the series, it will be up to Nene to use his speed to make sure his finesse game does not get in the way of the rumbling and tumbling slow Perkins. Nene will also need to bring it with rebounds as well, something he is not well known for and another reason I don't think he is a great fit at center, but I digress. He should play great one on one defense with the offensively limited Perkins, but he also needs to make Westbrook pay when he comes at the hoop, he can't be so concerned with Perkins since he is not an offensive threat, be aggressive big man! Chris Anderson and Collison have very similar games, so that matchup will be interesting, I think that Chris has a way of getting under players skins like Collison, so it will be a battle of who can get under the other players skin first. However Collison has to go through 2 extra layers of skin with the Bird man, and Chris will be getting better dimes from Felton, as Collison will from Nate Robinson who is not known as a good passer, so I think Chris will win this matchup.
Fair thee well Nuggets slayer!, YOU SHALL NOT, PASS!
Free throw shooting- The Nuggets have been quite cold from the free throw line, one of the most basic of basketball fundamentals, Nene, Gallo and Raymond Felton in particular. I believe that if we are going to win against this team, we will need to start making most of our free throws. Gallo was a 90% free throw shooter, before coming to the Nuggets, however he is shooting around 77% after coming to Denver, he needs to just relax and calm down and follow his mechanics, hopefully he is fine. Nene has been dreadful however, shooting 75% before the trade occurred, he is historically known for being a good free throw shooter for a big man, but there is just something off in his game, even air balling some of his FT's... eek. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the best team in terms of free thrown percentage, so I don't think we can get them in quality, but if we can make the most of our quantity and hit our free throws, I think we can win this series in 5 games.
Turnovers- They need to stop turning over the ball, The Thunder are a team willing to play the fast break with us, and they capitalize on steals themselves, but our point guards will need to control the ball better, and force turnovers on the Thunder, who happen to be one of the worst in turning the ball over, so if we can keep it minimal, and force the young and inexperienced Thunder to turn the ball over, we should be able to win in 5 games, it is not going to be a easy task, but Westbrook is a turnover machine. I think that we should play the passing lanes a bit more than we usually do, and make their frontcourt try to attack the rim.
If we can minimize these weaknesses , we should be able to beat the Thunder in 5 or 6 games, I predict we will win in 6 games if they can patch up their weak spots, however I don't know if the Nuggets can win if they don't make their free throw shots and turn the ball over. It should be interesting and these two things will be the key stats to watch, our point guard play will be key in this series more than any series if we make it out of this match up.
Call me crazy, call me what you will but I think the Nuggets will take this in 5 games.
you heard it first folks, the CloudBurst stamp of approval, we are too dangerous and have too many weapons to bow down to the Thunder.
Thank you for reading.
This is not a friendly conversation:
They are not talking about pies, or iPad apps, or Sarah Vowell books, or cool bars, or hipsters, or yoga mats, or Bronx Zoo Cobra tweets, or The Awl, or organic ice cream, or Dwayne’s friend ReRun, or things Chuck Klosterman talks about, or Leno on Letterman, or Lili Taylor, or pies.
They are talking about grease, and spit, and Tucker Max books, and ice roads, and rent, and Sucker Punch, and Harry Levin, and Libya, and too much internet, and Franco on The Oscars, and Black Eyed Peas at the Super Bowl, and sexism, and Deadwood being canceled.
See you soon, playoffs!