The Denver Nuggets (10-7) are in the midst of a downward slump over the last week. Entering last week Wednesday, they were 9-4, and they’ve gone just 1-3 in their last four games with the most recent loss coming at home last night to the Detroit Pistons, who were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Tonight, they get a chance to bounce back against the Oklahoma City Thunder (7-10).
While this losing skid isn’t great, it requires a grain of salt to go with it. Nikola Jokic, missed three of those four games, and he was announced as active less than two hours before last night’s game. Jamal Murray also missed two games while multiple other rotation players have been out of the lineup during that time. This team is better than their record, and they just have to get everyone on the floor to prove it.
OKC continues to be a pesky team on a nightly basis. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander remains one of the brightest rising stars in the game, and he looks poised for his first All-Star selection at the rate that he’s playing. This will be already the third matchup between these two rosters, and Denver is looking to claim the season series by going up 3-0 in this one.
Who: Denver Nuggets (10-7, 6-5 home) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (7-10, 4-4 home)
When: 8:00 p.m. MST
Where: Paycom Center
How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Oklahoma City. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Welcome to Loud City
Expected Starting Lineups:
OKC: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG Josh Giddey, SF Jalen Williams, PF Luguentz Dort, C Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Bones Hyland (Illness), Collin Gillespie (leg), Ish Smith (calf), Jeff Green (knee), Mike Muscala (finger), Aleksej Pokusevski (ankle)
Three Things to Watch
Murray vs Shai
Shai has been one of the hottest players in the NBA this season. He’s third in the NBA in points per game at 31.1, and he’s doing so while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. Conversely, Murray has gotten off to a slow start by his standards. He’s averaging just 16.1 points per game while shooting 41.9 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from 3-point range. He’s also shooting just 77.1 percent from the line. Murray doesn’t have to regain his bubble form tonight, but the Nuggets need more from him tonight.
The MPJ Bounceback
To start the season, Michael Porter Jr. was the hottest shooter in the NBA regardless of position. He made fewer than two 3-point shots just once, and he made fewer than three just twice in the team’s first 12 games. However, in the last four games, he’s shot a combined 4-of-21 from downtown. Denver needs his shooting to open up the floor for everyone else, and this is a great bounceback spot for him, as he’s 8-of-16 from outside against OKC so far this season.
Bones Hyland missed last night’s game with illness following his career-high 29 points in Sunday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks. With him out, that leaves the second unit even more vulnerable than they’ve been this season. Additionally, rookie Christian Braun played just 3:26 in last night’s loss, which was just the fourth time this season he’s played fewer than 10 minutes in a game where he saw the floor. The second unit rotations are jumbled right now, and, if Bones is inactive again, they’ll have even less margin for error.