After a pair of home games against top Eastern Conference teams, the Denver Nuggets (33-15) are back on the road for a trip to get the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder (32-15) off of their backs. In three games this season, the Thunder lead the series 2-1 with both of their wins coming in Denver, where the Nuggets are 19-2 against all other opponents. 

The Nuggets are 7-3 over their last 10 games, with all three of those losses coming on the road, including two of them on a five-game East coast road trip. Denver sits just a half game back from the Minnesota Timberwolves and a half game in front of the Thunder in the standings. A win in this game would go a long way towards their chances of clinching the top spot in the conference at the end of the year.

For the Thunder, they’re 6-4 over their last 10 games, and they’re riding a two-game losing streak entering tonight, which includes an ugly loss to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. This team is loaded with young talent, and they’ve been a scrappy team all season long. Now, they’re looking to show that they’re really contending with the top dogs of the league with a chance to clinch the season series tonight.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (33-15, 14-11 away) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (32-15, 17-6 home)

When: 6:30 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

Expected Starting Lineups:

OKC: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG Josh Giddey, SF Luguentz Dort, PF Aaron Wiggins, C Chet Holmgren

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Julian Strawther (knee) OUT, Nikola Jokic (back) QUESTIONABLE, Luguentz Dort (ankle) QUESTIONABLE, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (illness) QUESTIONABLE, Chet Holmgren (ankle) QUESTIONABLE, Isaiah Joe (sternum) OUT, Jalen Williams (ankle) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Non-Jokic Scoring

In the previous matchup between these two teams, Nikola Jokic and Peyton Watson were the only starters that attempted more than five shots while shooting greater than 50 percent from the floor. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. combined to shoot 8-of-27 from the floor, including 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Those two provide too much of a scoring punch for the Nuggets to just be silent for the majority of the game. With Jokic’s size advantage inside, he should put up points, but he needs the guys around him to do their part as well.

Keep SGA Outside

In the Nuggets’ victory over the Thunder, their hot shooting helped. However, more importantly, they never let SGA get into a rhythm with easy buckets at the rim. His speed and driving ability makes him a tough cover, but, if you can force him into shooting tough jumpers from mid-range and outside, it makes life much more difficult for him. He scored seven points in the first game, and he’s combined for 65 in the last two. Prevent him from driving straight to the rim the entire game. If he beats you with jumpers from the elbow, you tip your cap and move on.

Jokic Does It All

Jokic is questionable entering tonight’s game with a back injury, but I expect him to suit up in this one. I also know that he is the player in the NBA that has the most impact on the game when he’s playing. When he’s running the offense, everything runs through him, and that’s what we’re banking on tonight. His rebounds + assists prop is set at 21.5, and we’re taking the over on this one. In three games against OKC this season, Jokic is averaging 16.3 rebound chances and 14.3 potential assists. That works out to a total of 30.6 potential chances to rack up stats. OKC allows the third-most combined rebounds and assists to centers, and I think Jokic cashes in on that tonight.

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