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Oklahoma City at Denver Nuggets: 2011 NBA Quarterfinals, Game 3; Critical Juncture

Perk is intrigued and surprised.
Perk is intrigued and surprised.


Records: The Denver Nuggets (50-32) vs. The Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

Series: Game 1, Game 2 (Thunder Lead Series 2-0)

Time: 9:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: The Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

TV: Entertainment Sports Programming Network, Fox Sports Net Oklahoma HD, Altitude Sports and Entertainment HD

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), Mile High Sports Radio 1510

Enemy Blog(s): Denver Stiffs, Roundball Mining Company

So, you've won both games 1 and 2?

Well then, it's time to prove your real worth. Plenty of teams have won their first two games at home, only to lose the series or have it go seven games. The games that really decide the series happen in the middle, not the beginning. Can the Thunder steal one away from home?

Yes. Game 2 served as a perfect blueprint for what the Thunder need to do to win a game against Denver. Force the Nuggets big men to shoot outside of the paint. Trap the guards, and get as many points as possible in transition. Resort to getting fouled when the offense stalls out. Find a third scorer in Ibaka and/or Harden. Force stupid mistakes, keeping the Nuggets frustrated and angry. But, perhaps above all else, the Thunder always jumped on the hot hand, making it difficult for the Nuggets to score.

But this game isn't important just because it's being played in Denver. Rather, it's also important because the Nuggets have their backs against the wall, and the crowd functions as a bit of a placebo towards their confidence. Even if the Thunder may be superior in strategy and talent, the Nuggets can win this game with sheer hustle and will.

Below: The Return of Aaron Affalo, How the Game Will Go, Prediction!
There's also the added factor tonight of the return of Aaron Affalo. I've never been extremely impressed with what he does, but he is a solid shooting guard and can provide an excellent scoring boost off the bench. His return from injury could also mean decreased minutes for J.R. Smith, who was in George Karl's doghouse last night while playing only six minutes. He could also provide an alternative to Wilson Chandler, who has been less than impressive in this series. All in all, his scoring ability could mean the difference between a narrow loss and a narrow win for the Nuggets.

While I'd love to say that we can expect the Thunder to sweep the series, I would be lying if I said so. The Nuggets have all of the intangibles on their side, and when two teams are as close as the Thunder and Nuggets are, intangibles can mean a whole lot. I'm not trying to be a downer, all I'm saying is that the Thunder and this fans should not and cannot take the series for granted. And the reality check comes tonight.

Prediction: Denver 110, Oklahoma City 103