Where They At: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder suffered an embarrassing loss at home on Christmas, getting outworked most of the game by the Bulls before staging a no-cigar comeback. While I’m distraught that I got just my second prediction of the season wrong, I really didn’t find the game too alarming. Christmas games can be weird. The Bulls were in one of those weird stretches where they look terrible but are still due for a win. The loss of Joakim Noah isn’t as big a deal with their overcrowded frontcourt—Noah only averages 22 minutes played this season, and Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson ate up 17 of those just by hitting 38 and 34 minutes, respectively, against the Thunder.
Silver lining time: the failings of the starting group (Steven Adams must have found coal in his stocking or something that morning) threw the game into disarray, more to blame than the bad bench units we’ve been calling for Donavan to forget about. The train-wreck 5-man reserve group was only on the floor for one minute together. And Donavan’s desperation over the last competitive games (i.e. non-Lakers games) has progressed away from featuring Kyle Singler more (as he did against the Clippers) and toward using Anthony Morrow to close out the entire fourth quarter against the Bulls. While 21 minutes is still too few for the sharpshooter, he was used over Dion Waiters, who has played less than 20 minutes three of the last four games.
The gears are turning for Donavan, and I would assume some frantic machinations are at work in the front office to try and fix the Thunder’s roster. There’s still time.
Where They At: Denver Nuggets
Denver is a game out of the eighth seed, a 12-18 example of the mighty West’s fall from dominance. They’ve beat one winning team all year (Toronto, to snap an 8-game losing streak) and taken down the Rockets twice. New coach Mike Malone hasn’t been able to deliver his brand of defensive basketball to Denver yet, and their offense has been even worse than it was last season. Other than breakout year from Will Barton, Malone hasn’t had a lot to work with. Raw talents like Emmanuel Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic have been out, while the veteran stability that Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler could bring has been mostly wiped out by injury.
Would the Thunder drop two straight at home? Against these Denver Nuggets? Nah.
Prediction: Thunder 116 Nuggets 102
|2015-16 NBA Season Game #31|
|December 27th, 2015|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City|
|6 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Altitude, NBA League Pass|
|Injury Report: Jusuf Nurkic (Out), Wilson Chandler (Out), Danilo Gallinari (Doubtful), Emmanuel Mudiay (Doubtful)|
|This Season's Matchups: Nov. 1 (W 117-93)|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Gary Harris||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Kostas Papanikolaou||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Kenneth Faried||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Joffrey Lauvergne||C||Steven Adams|