After building a nice body of work this preseason and steamrolling their way through the Suns lineup on Friday night, the Denver Nuggets saunter into Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder and their well-rested stars.
When: 5 PM Mountain Time on Sunday, 10/18
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
How to watch: Drive to Oklahoma or find a stream
Opposing View: Welcome to Loud City
Three things to watch for:
1) Health - we've reached the part of the preseason where bodies aren't used to all this heavy play and the little nicks and strains are catching up to the players. There's a New York Knicks joke to be made in there, but since the Knicks are 4-1 in the preseason too and thus obviously destined for a playoff berth and competing to face us in the finals, maybe we'll hold off.
Here's the list of Nuggets ailments released after the last game:
Emmanuel Mudiay - sore hamstring
Nick Johnson - sore calf
Danilo Gallinari - ankle sprain
Darrell Arthur - knee bone bruise (ouch)
Gary Harris - mid-foot strain (better not Lisfranc that thing...)
Nikola Jokic - knee bruise (banged it in the last mnutes of the Suns blowout)
Randy Foye - hamstring (he's out)
Jusuf Nurkic - still out
Oleksiy Pecherov - out also
Holy walking wounded, Batman. Now, Mudiay and Johnson are listed as "probable" and Jokic may play, but still: at this rate we'll be suiting up the water boy, that short kid in the Green Voltron suit and whatever remains of Vincent Price for our final preseason games. Where is our savior Papanikolaou now? We'll probably have to play JJ Hickson for a serious chunk of minutes, and that alone might cause the basketball gods to withdraw their favor and darken the skies over Denver in protest.
So the team that takes the floor tonight may not much resemble the Nuggets' actual depth when the preseason starts. No Gallo, Harris, Darth, Foye, Nurkic or possibly Jokic takes a significant chunk of talent off the floor (assuming none of them play, or are limited). So this is a game to watch the process as much as the players actually on the court. Denver just wants to get out of Oklahoma without tweaking anything serious.
2) The return of the Thunder Big Three. They sat out the previous game against Memphis, which was not-coincidentally the only loss OKC has tallied thus far. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are all scheduled to play this game, and even if they're on a 20 minute limit it'll still be fascinating to see them take on a Nuggets team that is far more serious on the defensive end than they have been in a while. Mudiay vs. Westbrook alone will be worth the price of admission, and should be another huge learning opportunity for Emmanuel before the games start to count.
3) 15th-man competition. Erick Green vs. Nick Johnson isn't exactly Ali-Frazier, but they're rumbling all the same. Green is at best merely a pest on defense with a sweet jumper, while Johnson is very athletic but not overly impactful. One guy needs to have a game where he jumps ahead. Green has been injury-limited in the preseason after a very good camp, but that doesn't help him when he's the one with the non-guaranteed contract. Best of luck to both men trying to stick on an NBA roster. Hopefully at least one of them gets the minutes tonight to make an impression.
Prediction: Nuggets lose the first half but win the second, take the victory 98-92.