The Thunder welcome the Denver Nuggets to the Chesapeake Arena tonight to resume what proved to be a very competitive rivalry that ratcheted up several notches last season. The Thunder knocked the Nuggets out of the playoffs last year, but the series was a closely contested match-up throughout, with four of the five games decided by five points or less. No doubt the Denver holdovers from last year, in particular Nene Hilario, Ty Lawson, and Arron Afflalo, will be looking for some payback as well as a leg up in the competitive Northwest division.
The Nuggets started out hot this season, as their offense has proven to be one of the best in the NBA. Averaging over 103 points per game, the Nuggets are one of the few teams that is actually averaging triple digits in scoring. Despite the off-season losses of Ray Felton, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, and Wilson Chandler, the deep Nuggets team has continued to flourish. However, their defense has not lived up to their offensive abilities, as the Nuggets are also giving up over 100 points per game.
For better or worse, this Nuggets-Thunder game is probably going to be known more for who is NOT playing than who is. Both teams are banged up of late. For Denver, their best offensive weapon Danilo Gallinari is out for at least a month with an ankle injury. Nene has missed his last three games with a calf strain, and Timofey Mozgov missed a number of games earlier in the season. On the Thunder side of things, Thabo Sefolosha will be out for at least another month. Kendrick Perkins missed last game with a knee contusion and is doubtful for tonight. Eric Maynor is lost for the season. Finally, as we reported yesterday, Russell Westbrook spraining an ankle in the Thunder win over the Warriors, and is now a game-time decision.
With so many question marks tonight, this game is going to be a test of each team's backups. We know that the Nuggets can go 10 deep and play competitively. Tonight we will see if the Thunder can as well.