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Game 1 Nuggets at Thunder: Time to do work (7:30pm MDT)

Sunday, the day of rest - not for Nuggets Nation. With the traditional 9-5er work-week set to begin tomorrow, Nuggets fans find their team starting a day early in Oklahoma City. The much anticipated playoff series between the Nuggets and Thunder can't get started fast enough.

The particulars ...

Game: 1
Records:
Denver:
0-0 (0-0 on the road)
Streak: None.
Oklahoma City: 0-0 (0-0 at home)
Streak: None.
Injuries:
Denver
: The laundry list - Arron Afflalo (left hamstring) is out. Danilo Gallinari (right ankle sprain), Timofey Mozgov (left ankle/knee sprains), Ty Lawson (left ankle sprain), Raymond Felton (left ankle sprain), and Nene (left adductor/groin strain).
Oklahoma City: None..

Playoff Series: 0-0.

Opposition's Take: Welcome to Loud City

While the Nuggets haven't had a ton of post-season success outside of their 2009 Western Conference Finals run, George Karl coached Nuggets teams have played well in game ones. Since Karl took over in 2005 the Nuggets have played eight game ones, and Denver holds a 5-3 record in those contests. Winning the first game of a series can be a great way to change the mindset of your opposition, but as Nuggets fans should know - it doesn't mean your team is going to win the series.

Of the five wins the Nuggets have grabbed in games ones, they have only gone on to win the series twice - against the Hornets and Mavericks in 2009. So while winning today in Oklahoma City might send the right message to the Thunder, the Nuggets can't let a win make them think they have the upperhand in the series. The way I see things shaking out, the Nuggets will need to win at least two games in OK City and getting that first victory today would be sweet.

Both Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post and Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com are reporting that Arron Afflalo will not play today because of his tricky left hamstring. This means Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, and Raymond Felton will see all of the action at shooting guard and depending on how Lawson's ankle is the three might be leaned on even more for the guard positions. But this isn't the time of year that teams can make excuses for injuries. Guys need to step up anyway and this should provide the time guys like Smith need to make a difference on the court.

The previews Andrew Feinstein, Jeff Morton, and I wrote this week have let us all in on what the Nuggets will need to do to win the series, but this game today will require a few key points ...

  1. Fight through the nerves. Both teams will come out ampted up because of the atmosphere that will surely be deafening in OKC. We saw teams come out hot yesterday, like the 76ers, and still lose the game. We saw teams have big leads or good leads late in games, like the Pacers and Blazers and not be able to close things out. The Nuggets can't let a hot start or cold one effect them - the playoffs are about making every possession count.
  2. Make your fouls count. The Nuggets can't afford to get into foul trouble and let Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook feast at the charity stripe today. If you must foul, try to do so only when necessary. Reach in fouls and other ticky-tack ones will come back to bite you inn the butt if you put OKC, the best free throw shooting team in the league, on the line for no reason in the bonus.
  3. Share the ball. When the Nuggets are passing the rock it means they are looking for the open shot and hopefully moving the ball towards the basket. Denver needs to use their attacking style and not let the Thunder turn them into a jump shooting team today. Work the inside-out game and don't be afraid to get fouled. The Nuggets haven't been stellar from the foul line, but they must keep trying to get there. Don't look for the foul call either - attack and try to make your shots, the fouls will come if they are there, but And-1 plays will present themselves if Denver is focusing on making their shots and not looking to draw a foul.

I can't wait for today's game. There is a lot of basketball on today to keep us all entertained, but the best series of the all has been saved for last. Time to do work.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com