|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|January 16th, 2012|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Altitude Sports and Entertainment 2|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), KZBR 97.1 FM|
|Enemy Blogs: Denver Stiffs, Roundball Mining Company, Nugg Love|
|Previous Meetings: None.|
|Ty Lawson||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Andre Iguodala||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Danilo Gallinari||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Kenneth Faried||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Kosta Koufos||C||Kendrick Perkins|
As J.A. Sherman once said, the rivalry between the Thunder and Nuggets has to be one of the greatest in all of sports. It's not something that routinely has a lot at stake, since the Thunder have been generally well above the Nuggets in the standings. But games between the two teams are almost always guaranteed to be exciting. Both teams are usually guaranteed to score somewhere in the low hundreds, and both have significant advantages against the other.
Still, this year, there could be more at stake. The Nuggets have gone 8-1 in the month of January, and with just a bit over half of the season remaining, it's not outside of the realm of possibility that they could catch up to the Thunder in the race for the division crown. Winning the season series against OKC would go a long way towards that goal.
As it stands, the Nuggets are perfectly capable of winning this game. They're a fast paced team with many options to spread the floor with, taking advantage of the Thunder's pressure defense. Moreover, they're one of the league's best passing teams, avoiding turnovers and not relying in a single maestro to orchestrate them all. Further helping their offense is their ability to get to the line and grab offensive boards, which can make up for sometimes lackluster percentages. In terms of flaws, the Nuggets really don't shoot the three well at all, which can be killer for a team that prides itself on scoring.
Serge Ibaka is still suffering from a chest contusion, and will be a game time decision tonight. I almost think the Thunder are better off sitting him though. He usually struggles to score in faster-paced games, and he's less effective defensively because he's not always ready in the lane. I'm not saying that he hurts the team by any means, but having a smaller lineup with an energetic defender like Liggins could be rather effective mid-game.
Otherwise, the Thunder will basically have to play their game. Run the floor with the Nuggets, and take advantage of the fast break. Don't let Westbrook get too frustrated with the quicker Ty Lawson. Let Kevin Durant take over the game when need be. Find Kevin Martin on the perimeter. Let Collison use his size advantage in the post. The list goes on. Really, whatever I tell you is a crapshoot, because I don't whether the Thunder can handle the offensive trio of Lawson, Gallinari, and Iguodala. At the same time, the Nuggets really don't have a defensive answer for Kevin Durant. So does this game's outcome rest on the abilities of Russell Westbrook, offensively and defensively?
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 124, Denver Nuggets 120 (OT).
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