So, the Nuggets have been absolutely atrocious, losing the last 14 of their 16 games. To initiate tank mode, Denver traded away JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee, and Aaron Afflalo for a bunch of worse players and some assets at the deadline. The mere shell of the old Nuggets remain, along with a few journeymen who happened to wind up in Denver. It's really hard to pin any current player as a big future asset for the Nuggets moving forward, so it will be interesting to see just how Brian Shaw molds this makeshift team.
One of the remaining old components, Ty Lawson, isn't very happy right now. Lawson didn't play in the Nuggets' Friday night game against the Bucks. Reportedly, Ty was benched for conduct detrimental to the team. Who knows whether Lawson will play tonight, or how big a role he'll have for Denver moving forward. Still, the Nuggets were so ridiculously deep in the first place that they can basically trot out a full lineup without Lawson or any of the trade deadline guys.
So really, the Thunder are facing the old Nuggets plus Jameer Nelson. Nelson's been with the Nuggets since mid-January, but he hasn't seen the floor against OKC yet. Also, Jusuf Nurkic could be considered a relatively new addition to the Nuggets, Nurkic is a rookie, after all, and didn't get serious playing time until mid-December. As such, Nurkic's lone outing against OKC was a great night for him. The Bosnian Bear scored 16 points and added 14 rebounds, taking advantage of Steven Adams' absence.
I really don't see either of the above players turning the tides in the Nuggets' favor, though. Ty Lawson is a critical component against Oklahoma City, as his quickness is useful in getting around the slower OKC defenders. It's hard to see Ty performing well when disgruntled. Lawson's potential replacement, Nelson, is more of an outside threat. Nelson can be easily shut down if you just go over screens on him, though.
Plus, there's way too much positive buzz around OKC's camp right now. Russell Westbrook is playing some of the best basketball we will ever see him play in his life. Serge Ibaka is looking more useful at the end of games now that D.J. Augustin is helping to move the ball. Kanter is an answer to our cries for a proper offensive center. And Kyle Singler can hit threes! The only real negative is Dion Waiters. And Dion just can't find a consistent role.
Anyway, expect an offense first game tonight. Denver loves to crash the boards, mostly because they're big and don't have a ton of shot creators. But, get this, the Thunder have established dominance on both sides of the glass in the two games since the trade deadline. Like, super dominance. 121 boards to 80 boards in total type dominance. While OKC is shooting over 40%! Every board is going to be an absolute onslaught out there tonight.
On OKC's end, I'm expecting big nights from any player who can shoot. Singler, Morrow, Augustin, those dudes. It's so nice to have guards who can shoot. Because hopefully it will make games like this one much easier, even on the second night of a back-to-back.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Denver Nuggets 99.
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|2014-15 NBA Season Game 56|
|February 22nd, 2015|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|6:00 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain Plus|
|Injury Report: Kevin Durant (Questionable), Steven Adams (Out)|
|This Season's Matchups: Nov 1 (W 102-91), Nov 19 (L 100-107), Feb 9 (W 124-114)|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Wilson Chandler||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Danilo Gallinari||SF||Kyle Singler (or KD)|
|Kenneth Faried||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Jusuf Nurkic||C||Enes Kanter|
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