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Thunder scramble to recover against Nuggets

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With Big Blue facing a low-spirited locker room before an extremely winnable game, it's anyone's guess as to what goes down tonight.

We need more of this.
We need more of this.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
2014-15 NBA Season Game 13
@
3-8
(Lost 2)

3-7
(Won 1)
November 19th, 2014
The Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
8:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Altitude Sports and Entertainment
Injury Report: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Perry Jones III, Mitch McGaryGrant Jerrett (Out), Andre Roberson, J.J. Hickson (Questionable)
Previous Matchups: Dec 18 (W 105-93)
Probable Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Ty Lawson
Jeremy Lamb SG Aaron Afflalo
Lance Thomas SF Wilson Chandler
Serge Ibaka PF Kenneth Faried
Steven Adams C Timofey Mozgov

With the state of Thunder basketball a complete shambles, there couldn't be a better team to see tonight than the Denver Nuggets. Here's what's going on in Denver....

  • Danilo Gallinari was reduced to 8 minutes in the Nugs' most recent game against the Cavaliers. He hasn't started since the second game of the season, and may see his role disappear entirely. Gallinari is owed $22.4 million over the next two years.
  • Aaron Afflalo was benched in the second half of a complete blowout against Portland.
  • In that same blowout, coach Brian Shaw was booed by fans and given looks by players.
  • In that same blowout, the Nuggets didn't even emerge for halftime warmups.
  • Kenneth Faried has done a complete disappearing act on the defensive end, and has actually become a serious liability for the Nuggets. For what it's worth, Ibaka had 23 points against Faried on Nov 1.
  • There's no consistency between the team's starters or bench, and nobody has a clearly defined role.
  • I found all of the above info over at Denver Stiffs, and if you want to check out a great roundtable on what the Nuggets should do then you should click here.

So, yeah. Things haven't been peachy for the Nuggets, and this is actually a very winnable game. Some might consider a close call with the hibernating Cavaliers or a blowout of the decimated Pacers equals to a reversal of fortunes for Denver. But I believe the Nuggets are just as bad as they were in early November. Faried, Gallinari, and Afflalo are totally AWOL at this point. Without them, the Nuggets are just a collection of role players and Ty Lawson. Which is basically what the Thunder are. In other words, yes, this game will be extremely ugly.

Honestly though, if I was Brian Shaw, I'd just run a stretch four from the outset. The Thunder have been able to get by on some atrocious shooting from the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz over the past few games. But really, the Thunder have done a very poor job of keeping up with shooters on the perimeter. As long as the Nuggets can get just a bit of penetration or swing the ball, they should be able to get enough open shots to establish a pretty big lead.

Of course, the Nuggets haven't had any cohesive ball movement so far, nor have they had reliable shooters. About the closest thing Denver has had to a reliable player is Ty Lawson. Lawson pretty much does all he can, but he's not running any sort of offense out there. Most of the time it looks like he's completely freelancing, hoping to draw defenders and find a teammate in the right position. Lawson hasn't been able to hit many threes, either. All in all, he's the least of Denver's concerns, but he's still not the perfect leader at the moment.

Basically, unless a lot of shooters decide to get hot, Denver's offense is going to sputter out around 90 points. The Thunder's offense usually does the same these days, but Denver's bench presents an opportunity for a significant defensive breakdown. In the game against the Nuggets earlier this season, the Thunder were able to use Kendrick Perkins for 8 straight points on Danilo Gallinari in the second quarter. Might Brian Shaw put such a weak player at power forward again? Might a Collison be able to take advantage of a similar matchup? I hope so.

On the Thunder's side of things, not much is new. Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb continue to struggle from the field. Both players put themselves in position to score, but neither has been able to hit shots when it's counted. Reggie Jackson has suffered from poor shooting as well as poor decision making, and has seen his offense fall off a complete cliff over the past two games. Not even Ibaka provides remorse, as the big man has been clanking open shot after open shot.

Is there any injury help in sight? Well, Andre Roberson is a strong possibility to return today. I used to not think of him as much of an offensive option, but his ability to crash the boards and get easy points will be a welcome sight. Back in the day, I used to get frustrated when a player couldn't shoot. Now, I'm just happy when they produce points at all.

More likely than not, these teams are going to make each other look bad. Ty Lawson scored 25 points for the Nuggets in their earlier encounter with the Thunder, mostly due to the fact that he was guarded by Sebastian Telfair and Perry Jones. Now, he'll have to deal with Reggie Jackson. At the same time, the Thunder are on the second night of a back to back, in high altitude, and coming off of some terrible shooting performances. If either team gets over 20 by the end of the first, I'll be a monkey's uncle.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 77, Denver Nuggets 76.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!