clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Preview: The Thunder Twins Take on the Nuggets

New, comments

Westbrook and Durant are helping turn the Thunder into a defensive juggernaut, and guide their team into Denver for a divisional matchup against Danilo Gallinari, Emmanuel Mudiay and the Nuggets.

Harry How/Getty Images

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder travel to play the Nuggets at home Tuesday evening, looking to improve on their Northwest Division-leading 30-12 record.

Westbrook and Durant average 52.8 points per game against the Nuggets for their career, and everyone knows they can score. But lately, their defense has been helping them win games. During the Thunder's current winning streak, they're putting up some serious defensive numbers. They are limiting teams to 88 points per game on 41 percent shooting, with a meager 29 percent rate on 3-point shot attempts.

"It was probably the most complete game we've played defensively," coach Billy Donovan said after the Thunder held the Miami Heat to 74 points in the team's last game. "We used our length and size and from a sustainability standpoint, we sustained for a long period of time, which was great to see."

The Nuggets face the Thunder fresh off scoring a season-best 129 points against the Indiana Pacers. One thing is for certain, if they play the type of defense they did against the Pacers, the Thunder aren't going to be held to 126 points. The Thunder have the 2nd-best offense in the league, scoring 108.5 points per game.

As long as the Nuggets can keep Ibaka, Westbrook and Durant from scoring over 100 points combined, I think they'll have a shot at it. Maybe they'll catch the Thunder on a night where their shot is off or something - that's why they play the games!

The Basics

Who: Oklahoma City Thunder (30-12) vs Denver Nuggets (16-25)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

Where to watch: Altitude

Enemy Blog: Welcome to Loud City

Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Russell Westbrook Emmanuel Mudiay Thunder
SG Andre Roberson Gary Harris Nuggets
F Kevin Durant Danilo Gallinari Thunder
F Serge Ibaka Kenneth Faried Thunder
C Steven Adams Nikola Jokic Thunder
Bench Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, Cam Payne, Kyle Singler, Mitch McGary, Nick Collison, Anthony Morrow, D.J. Augustin

Darrell Arthur, Will Barton, Randy Foye, Sean Kilpatrick, Joffrey Lauvergne

Thunder

Injured players:

Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (questionable), Jameer Nelson, sprained wrist (questionable)

Three Things to Watch

Frontcourt depth. The Thunder can play so many different styles against teams. For a Nuggets team that will likely be without Jusuf Nurkic, they'll need to avoid foul trouble so that they don't end up having to play their second unit bigs extra minutes. Kanter and Adams play physical ball, and if Jokic picks up a few cheap fouls, forget about it.

Guard the 3-point line. Without Nurkic, the Nuggets have a tendency to be more cautious about defending the paint. That leaves them a step or two inside the 3-point arc, which keeps them a second longer when contesting shots on the perimeter. Against the Thunder, that can turn a few possessions into a run that will be hard to counter.

Don't be intimidated. Russell Westbrook is an alien. He routinely makes plays that can crush a team's spirits. When those plays do happen, the players have to take a deep breath, gather themselves, and get back to business. Two points are just two points, no matter how the ball goes through the hoop. Adopt the fighter mentality Michael Malone has, and don't back down from the challenge. This team beat the Warriors - if they play within their system, they can hang with the Thunder.

Prediction

Thunder 115-Nuggets 98. The game against the Warriors was sweet, but they had it coming to them, with the Nuggets having played them close earlier in the season. The Thunder are an angry team, and they aren't going to mess around. Without Nurkic in the middle managing the defense and protecting the rim, I expect the Pepsi Center rims to be subject to a high volume of abuse. Barton and Gallinari will help close the lead late, but I think the Nuggets are due for a stinker after their explosion against the Pacers. I've been wrong before though (like with the last Warriors-Nuggets game -- oops).

*****
REMINDER: STIFFS NIGHT OUT WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3RD

Join us at Jake's Sports & Spirits (3800 Walnut Street, Denver, CO 80205) as our Nuggets take on the Jazz in Utah at 7pm.

Attendees can win Denver Stiffs T-shirts and Nuggets tickets and Jake's will be serving 50-cent wings for us all night long.

We hope to see you there!