Tip-Off: 7 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Danilo Gallinari is the leading scorer for the Nuggets with 17.1 points per game. He is shooting 42.8% from the field, 38.3% from behind the arc, and 88.7% from the free throw line. Gallinari also averages 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. In the first meeting Oklahoma City and Denver in which the Thunder won in overtime, Gallinari sat out with thigh soreness, so this will be his first game facing the Thunder this season. Gallinari is a consistent scoring threat for the Nuggets, and it will be a good sign for the Thunder if they can keep him in check.
Keys to the Game
- Pour on the Points: Denver has a particularly weak defense that allows 110.9 points per game (27th in the NBA). Denver opponents have shot 47.2% from the field and 37.4% from three, which bodes well for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is shooting 45.8% from the field (11th), but a near-league worst from three at 33% (29th). Oklahoma City shot 50.5% from the field and an incredible 50% from three in the first matchup with Denver, so as long as the Thunder can take efficient shots, they should be able to score on the Nuggets easily.
- Win the Inside: In the Thunder’s first matchup with the Nuggets, Denver dominated the inside with more points in the paint (62 to 50) and rebounds (51 to 40). Oklahoma City ranks 2nd in the league in scoring in the point with 49.3 points per game, but Denver is not far behind at 4th with 45.0 point in the paint per game. In rebounding, the Nuggets rank ahead of the Thunder at 2nd with 47.0 rebounds per game while the Thunder is 4th with 45.6 per game. Oklahoma City has had exceptional play from both Enes Kanter and Steven Adams lately, so they need to continue this trend to give the Thunder the push inside that they need.
- No Letdowns: Oklahoma City has an awful habit of letting its opponent go on a big scoring run at some point in the game. On November 25th in Denver, the Thunder led the Nuggets 75-74 with 7:10 remaining in the 3rd quarter. By the end of the period, Denver had taken an 84-80 lead. The Nuggets continued to add to their lead going up by as much as 13 at one point when they created a 93-106 deficit for the Thunder with 6:24 left in the game. Oklahoma City went on a run to tie the game at 122 by the end of regulation and finally won 132-129 in overtime, but they never would have been in that type of situation had they not had a letdown late in the 3rd quarter. The Thunder needs to play consistent defense as a team, but the second unit especially needs to keep the intensity up and not dig a hole for the starters when they return in the fourth quarter.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.