Tip-Off: 4 PM CDT
Location: Pepsi Center (Denver, CO)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F-C Nikola Jokic has seemingly come out of nowhere in his second year in the NBA, and his impact has pushed the Denver Nuggets into potential playoff contention. This season, the Joker is averaging 16.6 points while shooting 57.9% from the field and 82.8% from the free throw line to go along with 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He also has 38 double-doubles and 6 triple-doubles for the season. In the first two meetings in the first half of the season between the Nuggets and the Thunder, Jokic was not a key contributor, but his status with Denver has drastically changed since then. The Nuggets are one of the highest scoring teams in the league, so keeping Jokic in check will be essential to stopping Denver’s offense.
Keys to the Game
- Down Low Dog Fight: Oklahoma City and Denver are near identical statistically when it comes to interior play. Both teams average 46.4 rebounds per game, Denver is first in scoring in the paint with 49.9 points per game, while Oklahoma City is second with 49.8 points per game, and the Thunder is 28th in opponent points in the paint with 47.4 points, while the Nuggets are 29th with 47.5 points. The battle down low is going to be brutal, and it is absolutely essential that the Thunder big men show up ready to play and prepared to make things happen in the paint.
- Defend with Pride: The Thunder’s defense has been so inconsistent lately, showing a lack of effort with glimpses of brilliance sprinkled in. The Nuggets rank third in the league in points per game, and if Andre Roberson is out again today with knee soreness, then filling in the gap will be extremely difficult. No matter what level of skill the team is able to defend at, they have to put forth their best possible effort to stop a team like Denver.
- Take Care of the Ball: After having some difficulty with not turning the ball over, the Thunder has done a solid job as a team the last few games at making good decisions and not losing the ball. However, Russell Westbrook has really struggled with turnovers, racking up 15 in the last two games. Denver ranks dead last in opponent turnovers, forcing only 12.0 per game, so Oklahoma City will hopefully not have to deal with turnovers woes today.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.