Nuggets at Thunder preview: Can the Stiffs karma deliver a 13th straight victory?

Doug Pensinger

If the Denver Nuggets are to win a franchise record 13th straight game, they're going to need some Stiffs karma ... a lot of it.

Loading Scores

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 69
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vs
46-22 (16-19 on the road)
2-1
50-17 (30-4 at home)
March 19th, 2013 - 6:00 PM (MT)
Ford Center - Oklahoma City, OK
Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan / Jake's Food & Spirits for SNO #9!
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Russell Westbrook
Andre Iguodala SG Thabo Sefolosha
Danilo Gallinari SF Kevin Durant
Kenneth Faried PF Serge Ibaka
Kosta Koufos C Kendrick Perkins
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Daily Thunder
None Injuries Hasheem Thabeet (doubtful)
As coach of the then-Seattle Supersonics, George Karl's 384 victories ranks second all time in Thunder franchise history. Stat The Thunder haven't exactly been slumping themselves, having won 11 of their last 13 and having only lost 4 home games all season long.

The NBA schedule makers did the Nuggets (and anyone who cares about competitive balance in the NBA) a major disservice by scheduling both at-Oklahoma City Thunder games as part of the second of a back-to-back.

In fact, you can count all the times the Nuggets have been trounced this season on one hand (at Orlando, at the Clippers, at Phoenix, at the Lakers and at the Thunder), with the Nuggets last of only five drubbings coming at Oklahoma City on January 16th. That's a remarkable stretch of competitiveness, my fellow Stiffs. If only one of these at-Oklahoma City games could be a fair fight, but I guess that just wasn't meant to be.

As we in Stiffs Nation know quite well, the Nuggets play pretty tough against the mighty Thunder when both teams are at an equal energy level. In the teams two meetings at Pepsi Center, the Nuggets have eked out a pair of thrilling victories - an overtime thriller in January and a Ty Lawson game-ender on March 1st - setting up what could be a fiercely competitive playoff series should the two franchises meet in the playoffs' second round.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Despite winning a franchise-tying 12 straight games and gutting out a tough overtime win at Chicago on Monday night, the Nuggets remain five full games behind their division rival for the Northwest Division crown and unless they somehow, someway win at Oklahoma City on Tuesday night that five-game gap probably isn't closing. And thus, the Nuggets will need more ammo than just a great effort.

They will need some Stiffs karma. Lots of it.

Well, it just so happens that a collection of Stiffs - hundreds perhaps - will be gathering to watch Tuesday night's affair live from Jake's Food & Spirits in Denver's RiNo neighborhood for our 9th "Stiffs Night Out." Could the Stiffs karma, plus a big night from the Nuggets starters - who collectively struggled against the Bulls on Monday - swing a 13th straight victory the Nuggets way? Dare I say ... yes?! (Unfortunately, we may have used up all of our Stiffs karma in that Bulls game by getting away with the non-goaltend call on Kosta Koufos followed by the legitimate goaltend call on Joakim Noah.)

Regardless of the Nuggets game plan entering Tuesday, and the Stiffs karma that will undoubtedly be with them, the Nuggets will need a lot of things to go right if they're to win at Oklahoma City against a rested Thunder team. Not only have the Thunder not played since Sunday, but you just know they want to be THE team that ends the Nuggets exceptional run of 13 straight wins and show the upstart Nuggets who's really boss in the Northwest Division. Worse, the Thunder likely want some revenge for those two close affairs at Denver - two games they believe they should have won.

So will the Nuggets miraculous run of 12 straight come to an abrupt end on Tuesday night? Or will their winning ways continue with a pair of easy opponents awaiting them at the Pepsi Center at week's end making 15 straight a possibility? In order to find out, the Nuggets will have to pull off their greatest challenge of the season to date.

Three things to look for in this game ...

1) Get Russell Westbrook into "hero mode." The Thunder's starting point may be a cantankerous asshole, but he's a really good cantankerous asshole. That said, Westbrook can be easily duped into an over-effort game in which he will routinely miss passes to Kevin Durant and instead take bad shots himself. Perhaps the Nuggets can fly Rocky in to get Westbrook riled up from the opening tip.

2) A rebound game for Gallo? Danilo Gallinari hasn't shot well for 11 days, and yet the Nuggets keep winning despite their small forward's struggles. Well I have news for you, Nuggets fans: Another 2-7 shooting night from Gallo won't get it done at Oklahoma City. Here's hoping Gallo has a big bounce back game, forcing Durant to play some defense in the process.

3) At the very least, a solid effort. What made the Nuggets loss at Oklahoma City in mid-January so disheartening wasn't the fact that they lost, but that they put forth one of their worst efforts of the season. Even though no one - including, probably, the Nuggets players - expect the Nuggets to win on Tuesday night, they should play competitively as a sign that these Nuggets aren't to be messed with come playoff time.

Scouting the Thunder ...

Thunder Non-Stiffs

-Kevin Durant: Pardon my language, but this guy is @#$%& awesome. Not only is he averaging a league-best 28.3 ppg, but he has raised his apg to 4.5, his shooting percentage to 50.5% and he gets you more than one steal and one block per game, too. Oh, and he can hit huge shots down the stretch in close games. Poor Gallo, Wilson Chandler and Andre Iguodala will have their hands full guarding this MVP candidate on Tuesday night.

-Serge Ibaka: Ibaka is putting up career highs in every category except blocks and yet he's still second in the NBA with 2.9 bpg. Most dangerous is the fact that Ibaka can hit a mid-range jump shot, thus forcing opposing power forwards to play out to defend him.

Thunder Stiffs

-Russell Westbrook: Westbrook isn't a Stiff talent-wise, but he certainly is attitude-wise. Not only do we hope that the Nuggets punk Westbrook on his home floor, but we want Rocky's over-the-head-half-court shot ball back, too.

-Kendrick Perkins: When he's not going after fans that boo him, Perkins has one of the cushiest center jobs in the NBA. The guy literally has to do nothing but stand in the paint and commit fouls. He doesn't even have to rebound! Must be nice.

Final Thought ...

With 12 straight wins under their belt, the Nuggets are essentially playing with the house's money entering Tuesday night's game. But rather than use that as an excuse not to show up, let's hope the Nuggets catch the Thunder off guard and deliver a statement game. And there would be no bigger statement than win number 13 in a row.

See you all at Jake's at 6:00pm for tipoff!

Reminder - Stiffs Night Out March Madness is happening TONIGHT. Win Spurs tickets, a bar tab and more!

Our ninth Stiffs Night Out is happening TONIGHT.

At 6:00pm tonight (come early to grab a seat) we're going to kick off March Madness by watching the Nuggets take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City live from Jake's Food & Spirits. Free appetizers and 2-for-1 drinks will be served.

We will be distributing NCAA brackets for $10, with all of the proceeds going to the Denver Hooperz, a local non-profit that provide after school basketball programs to at-risk youth. Prizes - including tickets to the Spurs game on April 10th - will be given out to bracket winners. Also, the Colorado Sports Guys (Nate Timmons and Ross Martin) will be live podcasting throughout the event - and it's Nate's birthday!

Please RSVP here or on our Facebook event page so we can get a rough head count.

***

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