A special thank you to the Oklahoma City Thunder for defeating the Utah Jazz last night ... NOT! I bet you didn't expect the ever popular NOT joke, but you got it anyway! The Thunder however, did do the Nuggets a favor by taking the Jazz into overtime, but still lost a crazy game 140-139.
The particulars ...
Denver: 50--27 (32-6 at home, 18-21 on the road)
Oklahoma City: 48-29 (25-13 at home, 23-16 on the road)
Denver current streak: Won 2. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Oklahoma City current streak: Lost 1. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
Denver: Kenyon Martin (left knee tendinitis) is out. Chris Andersen (left ankle) is a game-time decision and listed as day-to-day. Chauncey Billups (left quadricep contusion) is probable.
Oklahoma City: None.
Opposition's Take: Welcome to Loud City
Last night the Thunder had 139-138 lead with 5 seconds left in overtime thanks to a Jeff Green jumper. But then Deron Williams hit a fadeaway from just beyond the foul line to give the Jazz the lead for good as Kevin Durant, and his 45 points, missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
So, the Nuggets missed out on a chance to take back sole possession of the division lead with a win tonight and they'll have to win in Oklahoma City this evening just to keep pace with the Jazz.
It might be best that the Thunder didn't beat the Jazz because the race for the two spot doesn't need any more teams entering the contest (although the Thunder are still alive for the two seed). And with the tiebreaker to be settled tonight between the Thunder and Nuggets, as far as head-to-head play is concerned ... all the better the Nuggets gain some distance from as many teams as possible.
The Nuggets currently hold a 2-1 series lead on the Thunder with the home team winning each game. The Nuggets will need to break the home court advantage and should come away with a win if they can get the Thunder's heart out of the game as early as possible. In their last matchup the Nuggets blew the doors off Loud City with a 119-90 win at Pepsi Center (March 3rd) as the Thunder were coming in and playing the second of a back-to-back.
Oklahoma City again will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, but like Durant said in his postgame interviews on ESPN the team doesn't want to drop two games in a row and they need to find the energy tonight to "leave it all on the floor," said Durant. Wonderful cliche.
The Thunder will be playing their fourth game in five nights and the Nuggets will come in with fresh legs as they have not played since Saturday (April 3rd). But the fresh legs the Nuggets will have are not the ones that we really want to see as Kenyon Martin remains sidelined and Chris Birdman Andersen is still nursing a sore left ankle. Joining the walking wounded is Chauncey Billups with a left quadricep contusion suffered against the Clippers.
This would be the perfect time to give Ty Lawson back his primary backup duties and maybe rely on the quick point guard to carry more minutes than normal, but alas Adrian Dantley seems to be using Lawson in a herky-jerky role. In his last five games Lawson has played 3. 0, 20, 8 and 28 minutes in each game. That needs to stop and Lawson needs to get back to averaging 20+ minutes per game.
Limiting players is something the Nuggets defense needs to take to heart tomorrow night. This season Denver has done fairly well against the Thunder's "big three" whom the readers of this blog have coined "The Boom Boys." Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green are all outstanding young players and carry this Thunder team almost every night. Denver has held each guy in the first three games of this series to under their season point average and they must do that again tonight in order to pull off a win. If the Boom Boys get it going it could be a long night for the away team.
Durant averages 27 points against Denver and 29.7 on the season, Westbrook has been held to 12.3 ppg against Denver and averages 16.1 on the season and Green has only averaged 9.3 points against Denver and averages 15.1 on the season.
You'd like to think the Nuggets will be able to get a relatively easy win tonight in hopes that the Thunder may be a bit winded. But with the way things have gone this season nothing has come easy for Denver and the home crowd should give Oklahoma City a much needed boost of energy early.
With just five games left this might be the easiest one, on paper, to win ... and there is no "NOT" joking about it.
Photo courtesy of AP Photos