The Denver Nuggets are back on the road after a weekend off, and this time to face the division foe Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver braved a long road trip without Nikola Jokic earlier before defeating New Orleans at home in a thrilling overtime victory, and with the Joker presumably back in the starting lineup the Nuggets will look to improve upon their 5-11 road record.
The Thunder, while daunting on paper, are still trying to figure things out but have made strides since the Nuggets won 102-94 on November 9. Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are 9-4 at home and have taken over the eighth place in the playoff race by winning six of its last ten games. Wins on the road haven’t come easy for these Nuggets, but a victory tonight would go a long way in establishing more roots in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Who: Denver Nuggets (16-13) at Oklahoma City Thunder (14-15)
When: 6:00 PM MST
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
How to Watch: Altitude
Rival blog: Welcome to Loud City
Injury Report: Paul Millsap - out (wrist); Emmanuel Mudiay - questionable (ankle); Steven Adams - out (concussion)
Three Things to Watch
- Oklahoma City center Steven Adams is listed as out and is in concussion protocol after suffering a blow to the head on Friday night against Philadelphia. Adam’s absence is a nice gift for Denver, as the Nuggets have often struggled against physical bigs. In his place will likely be Dakari Johnson, a rookie who has big shoes to fill with Adams out of the lineup. Nikola Jokic needs to take advantage of the matchup in any way he can - this means being aggressive with his scoring and of course passing the ball.
- With Jokic presumably back in the starting lineup, Mike Malone will once again have to change things up for the Nuggets. Who will be getting the minutes tonight? On Friday, two-way contract player Torrey Craig notched his first career NBA start and was a key contributor in Denver’s win; Craig reportedly is still with the team in Oklahoma City and could be in line for more minutes tonight. Trey Lyles has been nothing short of phenomenal as of late and has certainly played himself into the main rotation. With Emmanuel Mudiay listed as questionable, backup ball handling duties will likely fall to Will Barton. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray have both looked great in recent games. However Malone decides to mix and match, as long as the players keep showing the intensity they have brought the past few games the Nuggets should be just fine.
- From here on out the going gets rough for Denver, who plays four of its next seven games on the road, all against playoff contending teams. This will be a tough but very important stretch for the Nuggets. With two days rest, expect the team to come out ready to play from the start. Containing Westbrook will be the key to get Denver off on this end of 2017 stretch.
Prediction: Nuggets 105, Thunder 99