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Thunder vs Nuggets preview and gamethread: OKC looks to rebound, heads to Denver

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The Thunder square off against the West’s best looking to avenge an early-season loss.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Oklahoma City Thunder Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets

Time: 9PM CST

Location: Pepsi Center, Denver

Broadcast: ESPN


The Thunder travel to Denver tonight to take on the (at least for the time being) Western Conference-leading Nuggets. A game after struggling mightily with the Pelicans’ front line of All-Star Anthony Davis and rapidly improving Julius Randle, OKC now must tussle with the similarly formidable but vastly different revolving big men, Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee. All the while having to deal with a smart, perimeter-oriented offense which Jokic guides around from the high post, like a man pointing a laser at a wall and watching cats chase it around for open threes and layups.

In the Thunder’s first go at Denver, Jokic was largely held in check (16 points on 6-20 shooting) but the toggling between him and Plumlee cause a lot of problems for the Thunder defense, with Plumlee much more physical and active, and the combination flummoxed the Thunder interior.

Meanwhile, this was Russell Westbrook’s infamous “1-12 from three” game. Here’s a word of obviousness — opposing defenses are giving up the three against the Thunder intentionally. They’d far rather keep the ball out of the lane where Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and Jerami Grant can finish with high success, and leave it in the hands of a league-worst 3-point offense that recently hoisted 43 of them in another loss. Those 43 shots represented almost exactly HALF of all OKC’s shot attempts.

If this were nearly any other team, this defensive philosophy would bet left on the butcher’s chopping block. But OKC keeps falling prey to their own weakness, and until they can show some consistent restraint and work for better shots, we’re going to keep seeing these kinds of outcomes.

The Nuggets are missing a host of players tonight, as Paul Millsap, Jarred Vanderbilt, Michael Porter, Jr. and Will Barton are all inactive. However, OKC showed against the Pelicans that it isn’t so much who suits up against them as it is how they pay attention to the little things, such as making free throws, hanging onto the ball, and rebounding. The Nuggets will push them; will the Thunder push back?

Also, Steven Adams, scouting extraordinaire.


Who do you think will win tonight?

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