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Game 66: Thunder vs. Nuggets

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Records:
Denver 40-25 (23-8 at home)
OK City 18-46 (5-26 on the road)

 

The Thunder are a much different team at home, with that great crowd, than they are on the road. This will be their first trip this season to The Can and their first trip ever since stealing the team from Seattle.

The Nuggets are 2-0 against the Thunder this season and I think we all know that's a very fortunate 2-0. Melo did to Oklahoma City in those two games what Clay Bennett and Co. did to the entire city of Seattle ... STOLE 'EM!

Melo hit a clutch 3-ball from the corner in their first game on Jan. 2nd as time expired to give the Nuggets a 122-120 win.

Then on Feb. 4th Melo again silenced the Thunder making a layup under heavy duress  giving the Nuggets a 114-113 victory.

The Thunder have all the right pieces to be a very good team very soon. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook have feasted on the Nuggets this season. In the first game they combined to score 65 of the team's 120 points or 54%. And in their second matchup against Denver they did even better combining for 75 of their 113 points or 66%.

Since the teams have played OK City added athletic guard Thabo Sefolosha from Chicago. Sefolosha has averaged 11.3 points in eight games for the Thunder and is coming off his best performance with the team after dropping 17 points on the Kings last night.

The Thunder are 5-5 in their last 10 games, but 5-1 in their last 6 contests. They have knocked off both the Mavs and the 76'ers on this current streak and they have compiled the 5-1 record without Kevin Durant ... their leading scorer with 26 ppg. Durant injured his ankle back on February 27th against the Mavericks and hasn't laced up since.

KD isn't the only walking wounded for the Thunder. Tonight they will be without Durant and possibly Nick Collison (groin). Talented forward Jeff Green played last night after missing the previous four games with a back injury (sound familiar Nuggets fans?).

The Nuggets will probably be without Anthony Carter once again, but Kenyon Martin is not listed on the injury report for tonight's game so I expect him to play.

The Nuggets must keep Green, Westbrook, and Sefolosha in check tonight. Down low the Thunder have Nenad Kristic who has averaged 16.2 ppg in his last five games. Kristic was a force starting to come into his own with the Nets until an ACL tear slowed down his bid for stardom. Make no mistake, this guy has a nice jump shot and can really hurt teams with his big body. Nene had better be ready, because like himself Kristic is on the comeback trail.

I'm curious as to how Denver will defend Westbrook. Since KD has been out Westbrook has upped his ppg from 15.8 to 17.8 and his assists from 5.1 to 6.4 per game. The story of their last contest was OK City slowing down their frantic pace. Whether it had to do with Denver making more shots or getting back on defense ... the Nuggets were almost dusted in the last matchup by a much faster and seemingly more athletic team. Billups' troubles with quicker guards will again be on display tonight with the uber-quick Westbrook.

If Denver can control the tempo of this game and not have the home fans go ballistic if/when they blow another lead then I expect Denver to win this game.

The Nuggets have yet to lose to a sub .500 team at home this season. It's much easier for these ... let's say ... lesser teams to get the home crowd behind them and allow that to fuel their fire, but it's a whole different ball game on the road. It's all about protecting home court now for the Nuggets as they have 10 of their final 17 games here in DENVER.

 

Pregame notes:

  • Billups averages 6.1 assists this season - 17th among point guards in the NBA ... I think he can do better
  • JR Smith is averaging 18.8 ppg in his last 5 games (13.9 on the season) ... Denver is 1-4 in those contests
  • The Nuggets are 22-14 when JR scores more than 14 ppg
  • The Nuggets are 18-11 when JR scores 13 ppg and under
  • Linas Kleiza is averaging 6.2 ppg in his last 5 games (10 ppg on the season)
  • The Nuggets are 18-7 when LK scores more than 11 ppg
  • The Nuggets are 22-18 when LK scores 10 or less ppg

Pretty easy to see that when LK is going the Nuggets are a MUCH better team with his help.

 

Opposition: Welcome to Loud City

 

ntimmons73@yahoo.com