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Preview: Nuggets and Thunder battle at Ball Arena

From here on out, every game is a must win

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets take on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight as they try to avenge their previous loss to the Thunder in early March. The Nuggets gave up 119 points in that game, and all five Nugget starters had a plus-minus of -20+. Denver’s starters have run into a bit of a rut lately, but this game offers them an opportunity to get right. The Nuggets are the best team in the league at beating opponents with a sub .500 record, so for their sake, they need to continue that to prevent Minnesota from creeping further into that 6th spot.

Of course, the Nuggets cannot take them for granted, evident by their previous home loss to this team. That being said, they need to prevent the Thunder from creating extra baskets. Turnovers destroyed Denver against Phoneix on Thursday, and if they don’t keep that in check, Oklahoma City can steal another one in the mile high. If the Nuggets can execute their game plan, they should win this game handily.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (43-31, 21-15 home) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (21-52, 11-25 away)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Welcome to Loud City

Expected Starting Lineups:

OKC: PG Tre Mann, SG Aaron Wiggins, SF Darius Bazley, PF Isaiah Roby, C Aleksej Pokusevski

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Jamal Murray (out), Michael Porter Jr. (out), Zeke Nnaji (out), Vlatko Cancar (out), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (day to day), Kenrich Williams (out), Derrick Favors (out), Josh Giddey (out), Mike Muscala (out), Ty Jerome (out), Luguentz Dort (out), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (out)

Three Keys

Dictate the pace

This is something the Nuggets did not do during their previous matchup with the Thunder. Oklahoma City pushed the pace on Denver and they could not recover. The Thunder scored 18 fast-break points to Denver’s 8, and the 16 turnovers certainly did not help. The Nuggets need to make sure they practice great ball security because that will gift them the option to either push the pace or slow it down.

Give Jokic some rest

Jokic is still putting up good stat lines on a nightly basis, but of late he doesn’t appear to be his normal self. He could be suffering from a little fatigue from carrying this team on his back all season, so if the Nuggets can obtain a significant lead, hopefully the bench can carry them through the entire 4th quarter. Denver certainly cannot look past this game, but they do have tough opponents upcoming, so Jokic will need all the rest he can get to provide great energy and production throughout the rest of the season.

Do not underestimate the opponent

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is questionable for this game, but you almost have to expect he plays because it seems everybody loves to make their return against the Nuggets. He is one of the best point guards in the league, and he controlled the previous game against Denver with 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Their forward Isaiah Roby might have been the MVP of that game with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He also grabbed four offensive rebounds, so although on paper this might not seem like a dangerous team, they are a feisty bunch and give great energy to the floor.