Game: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Denver Nuggets
Time: 7PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Arena, OKC
The Oklahoma City Thunder welcome the Denver Nuggets to the ‘Peake one night after both teams wrapped up solid wins. The Thunder took down the Hornets while the Nuggets enjoyed a calm 25 point victory over the Magic. While Denver enjoyed a relatively stress-free Friday evening, the Thunder, sans a number of key role players, were stretched to the limit to stave off Charlotte.
Tonight’s game will be a fantastic test for the Thunder because the Nuggets represent perhaps the most dynamic offense in the league thus far this season. Whereas the Kings’ surprising offense crept up on OKC, the same should not be said of Denver. They are a next-gen offense, kind of built upon the foundations laid by Marc Gasol in Memphis, but with much better offensive talent. Nikola Jokic is surrounded by guards and wings who not only can knock down open jumpers, but also understand how to move in open space to let the dad-bod big man hit them on the run for layups and open threes. Aside from peak-Warriors offense, it is perhaps the most enjoyable offense in the league, two years running.
And here’s the kicker — Denver now has a defensive identity, unlike the sieve they were a year ago. The Nuggets are top-5 in team defensive rating (OKC is 2nd overall), which means the Thunder are going to have to put some work in for their offensive scheme and not simply rely on the other team to voluntarily break down defensively, a la the Suns or Knicks.
The biggest head-to-head matchup is going to be Jokic vs Steven Adams, and it will be the rare case where Adams is at a distinct disadvantage, as Jokic is as comfortable and effective 25 feet from the rim as he is in the post. Any time Adams is forced to move that far away from the lane, OKC’s defense is in a vulnerable position because their center can’t see everything in front of him and direct traffic. To counter, it will be crucial for the Thunder to develop a game plan that forces Jokic to work on the defensive end of the court, which means Adams needs to be an offensive focal point, not a bystander.
The Thunder will again be at a personnel disadvantage, but Denver isn’t at full strength, either — starting point guard Gary Harris is a game time decision, and they will be without Isaiah Thomas, Will Barton, Michael Porter, Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt.
Last night, Dennis Schroder and rookie Deonte Burton stepped up to help carry the load, setting the table for Paul George and Russell Westbrook to finish off the Hornets. Who will it be tonight?
Who do you think will win tonight?
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