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Preview: Denver Nuggets wrap up road back to back against Oklahoma City Thunder

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Can the Nuggets bounce back?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have spent a lot of the time on the road. After a four game road trip was interrupted by a one game home stand, the Nuggets are back traveling again wrapping up a southwest back to back. After falling to the Houston Rockets last night the Nuggets are looking to get their feet back under them against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder have done a bit of floundering themselves. Vying for a seed as high as even the one just a few weeks ago, the Thunder have fallen off considerably and are now sitting in the seventh seed. Perhaps something finally clicked on the Thunder’s side this week though. After trailing the Indiana Pacers early in the second half, OKC ripped off a 24-0 run on their way to just their second victory in the past six games. It should also be noted that OKC is not the typical seven seed. Paul George has been a legitimate MVP candidate throughout the season and Russell Westbrook is on his way to averaging a triple double for the third straight season. Make no mistake, this is a potent and dangerous team.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (50-24) at Oklahoma City Thunder (44-31)

When: 6:00PM MDT

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City, OK

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5FM

Rival blog: Welcome to Loud City

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Thunder Advantage
Position Nuggets Thunder Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Russell Westbrook Thunder
SG Gary Harris Terrance Ferguson Nuggets
SF Will Barton Paul George Thunder
PF Paul Millsap Jerami Grant Even
C Nikola Jokic Steven Adams Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig Nerlens Noel, Markieff Morris, Dennis Schroeder, Abdel Nader Nuggets

Injured players: Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Paul George - questionable (shoulder), Andre Roberson - out (knee).

Key matchup: Will Barton vs Paul George

As I said in the open, George has been at MVP levels this season. He’s scoring at a career high rate while also matching the best efficiency he’s ever put up. He’s back to being a lock down defender and rebounding and assisting at the highest rate of his career as well. Keep in mind this is a six time all star, so it’s not like he’s topping marginal seasons prior to this one. Barton meanwhile has been in a bit of a funk, in particular on offense. George is going to test Will the Thrill on both sides of the court and it’s a tough test to be sure. Will probably won’t win this matchup, but if he can make it close the Nuggets should have a good shot at winning. Perhaps the Nuggets best hope is that PG13, who is nursing a sore shoulder, could be no go tonight.

Key thing to watch for: Energy

You can’t really call that home game against the Detroit Pistons a home game. Yes, it was in Denver but the Nuggets essentially flew in, played a game, and flew out. It was basically just one stop on a seven game road trip. Throw in the fact that the Nuggets are on a back to back and coming off what was sure to be a demoralizing loss and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Denver come out flat tonight. However, the Nuggets would really benefit from a full four quarter effort. I think it’s been a couple weeks since we’ve seen one.

Opening thought: A win is gravy

While it certainly would be nice to snag a victory and sweep one of Denver’s division rivals, it’s not vital. As long as Denver wins their remaining home games it’s going to take the Rockets running the table on their last six and it would eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers chances of catching them. However, with that said getting a win tonight would be a massive step towards securing the two seed. Additionally, two of Denver’s remaining four home games are against playoff competition (Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs) so just chalking up those games as wins, even with the Nuggets noted home court advantage, is not advisable. A win tonight gives Denver a cushion and may just be the straw that breaks the Rockets and Blazers’ collective backs.