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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to steal a win from the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA schedule

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Can the Nuggets turn a good week into a great one?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have almost completely righted the ship. After dropping six of seven The Nugget 9-1 start seems like a distant memory but back to back wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic have the spirits of Nuggets Nation high once again. To fully make amends though Denver needs to pull off a signature win for the week and there’s no better opportunity than tonight. After playing last night, the Nuggets immediately headed to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder tonight.

Perhaps the only more distant memory than the Nuggets 9-1 start is OKC’s 0-4 start. Since that time the Thunder have lost a total of two games, going 12-2. That outstanding stretch has the Thunder sitting atop what is once again shaping up to a very competitive Northwest Division. One of the biggest keys to success for OKC has actually been asking star point guard Russell Westbrook to do less. As part of the Carmelo Anthony deal to the Atlanta Hawks the Thunder brought back Dennis Schroder who is a fairly accomplished point guard in his own right. Schroder’s ability to run the offense and create for others has allowed Westbrook to operate more off ball and carry less of the load every night. Throw in another stellar season from wing Paul George, and this new Thunder mix is extremely potent and effective.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (12-7) at Oklahoma City Thunder (12-6)

When: 6:00PM MST

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City OK

How to watch/listen: Altitude 2, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio AM950

Rival blog: Welcome to Loud City

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Thunder Advantage
Position Nuggets Thunder Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Dennis Schroder Even
SG Gary Harris Russell Westbrook Thunder
SF Juancho Hernangomez Paul George Thunder
PF Paul Millsap Jerami Grant Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Steven Adams Nuggets
Bench Trey Lyles, Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris, Torrey Craig Patrick Patterson, Nerlens Noel, Deonte Burton, Alex Abrines, Raymond Felton, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot Nuggets

Injured players: Gary Harris - game time decision (ankle), Isaiah Thomas - out (hip), Will Barton - out (groin), Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Jarred Vanderbilt - out (foot), Terrance Ferguson - out (ankle), Hamidou Diallo - out (ankle), Andre Roberson - out (knee).

Key matchup: Juancho Hernangomez vs Paul George

Out of all the projected matchups, this is the one that swings the most heavily in one team’s favor and it’s swinging to the Thunder side. That’s not a knock on Juancho, who is probably the best guy the Nuggets have to throw at George outside of Torrey Craig. The problem is George is really really good. He’s OKC’s leading scorer and as we’ve seen in the past, he’s too quick, too strong and too good of a shooter to hope to stop, you can only hope to contain him. Juancho is going to have to do just that to give Denver a chance. Personally I could care less if Juancho ends the game with two points so long as he holds PG13 to around 20 or less.

Key thing to watch for: Will Gary Harris play?

The matchup against Westbrook gets pretty lopsided as well if Harris can’t go. Gary played just 25 minutes and left the game early in the second half last night. Coach Michael Malone said he thought it was an achilles issue related to just being banged up from playing so hard, however the official report from the team is it is an ankle, but not the achilles. Gary is a GTD for tonight’s game so it doesn’t appear to be serious, just more related to wear and tear (which can be scary in its own right). Hopefully Gary is a go tonight as the Nuggets could certainly use his defensive acumen against Westbrook. If he’s a no-go it’ll most likely mean either sliding Jamal Murray over to the 2 guard spot and starting Monte Morris in Harris’ place, or plugging Malik Beasley into the starting lineup.

Opening thought: Win tonight and everyone’s back in happy land

Last week was rough, no doubt, and when the Nuggets opened this week, which included three of four games on the road, with a loss at the Milwaukee Bucks spirits were pretty low across the board. After a gutsy win at Minnesota followed by a home blowout of the Magic hopes seem to have lifted a bit. However, Denver was supposed to beat Orlando and the Timberwolves game was 50-50 at worst. The Nuggets aren’t supposed to win tonight. The Thunder have been one of the best teams in the NBA through the first quarter of the season and they get the Nuggets in OKC after they just played last night. This game is without a doubt a schedule loss so if Denver can close out the week with a 3-1 record that includes a steal of a win like tonight’s could be then it’s safe to say the buzz around the Nuggets will be very loud once again.