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Preview: The Nuggets host the Thunder in a battle for playoff position

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Two quality teams take the measure of each other one last time in the regular season

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder square off for the third time on Tuesday night in the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have already won the first two meetings of the season and the Thunder need a win in order not to concede the tie-breaker to the Nuggets as well as to maintain their own pursuit of home court. The Nuggets have a 3 game lead on the Thunder and can lock up the record tie-breaker with a win tonight.

Denver has the best home-court record in the league at 26-4, so the Thunder have a steep challenge ahead of them. Fans in Denver have been coming out in force recently as well, so there shouldn’t be a repeat of the MVP cheers for Russell Westbrook. Denver is a team on the rise, with weapons everywhere around their unlikely, magnificent centerpiece in Nikola Jokic. The Thunder in the prime of their roster, led in scoring and captained on defense by Paul George, but still have Russell Westbrook’s fingerprints all over everything they do.

Tonight should rightly feel like a playoff matchup. Game on.

The Basics

Who: Oklahoma City Thunder (38-21) at Denver Nuggets (41-18)

When: 8:30ish PM MT

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: TNT, Altitude TV

Rival Blog: Welcome To Loud City

Injury Report

Trey Lyles - out (hamstring), Michael Porter Jr. - out (back + 2019-20 ROY campaign considerations)

Three Things to Watch

Two MVP candidates vs the Best Young Team in the League. Get your tickets now. Russell Westbrook is still doing Russ things like getting triple-doubles while shooting horrendously, and Paul George is a two-way impact player without whom the Thunder crater in every minute he sits. The Nuggets have their own MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic, but they also have a team so deep that their bench guards - Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and now Isaiah Thomas - are some of the most dangerous and effective snipers in the league.

Denver has wave after wave of guys to throw at the Thunder, who need to survive the minutes without Westbrook but more importantly without George. The Nuggets have a free-flowing offense compared to the Thunder, but OKC is a team that likes to impose its will. It’s hard style vs. soft style. And for the fans it should be another fun iteration of a matchup Denver might have again in the playoffs.

Can the Thunder stop Denver from doing what it wants to do? Denver hasn’t had horribly effective scoring nights against Oklahoma City so far this year, putting up 109 and 105 points in the first two games, but OKC hasn’t broken a hundred. So maybe the more important question is whether the Thunder can find another scorer to help them keep up with Denver’s potent offense. Because what Denver really wants to do is win, and they’ll take it however they can get it.

Michael Porter Jr. Just kidding. Really it’s Rocky vs Russ. Nuff said.

Prediction: Denver keeps the home court rolling in a hard-fought affair, 115-109.