Tonight’s game of the night is a Western Conference matchup between two teams that would play in the first round of the playoffs if the season were to finish today. The second place Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4) are changing elevations and heading to Denver to face the seventh place Nuggets (14-9)
This is the second match up between the two teams on the season, the Thunder getting the best of the Nuggets in Oklahoma City 115-113. The Nuggets had a 14-point second half lead, but Russell Westbrook’s 11 point, seven assist fourth quarter helped lead the Thunder back. Kevin Durant added 38 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
This game occurred just ten games into the season for both teams. The Nuggets were 4-6 and have now won 10 0f 13 since, and the Thunder have only lost once since that game in 13 competitions.
Both teams have explosive offenses and they were both on display in the last game. The Nuggets lost the game at the free throw line, making only 25-43 free throw attempts. The Thunder, on the other hand, made 26-32 of their free throws. Both teams are also excellent on the glass, the Thunder leading the NBA with 47.3 rebounds a night, and the Nuggets are third with 46.3. Statistically, the teams matchup fairly well.
The key matchup will be at the point guard position. Westbrook and Nuggets’ guard Ty Lawson are two of the best in the league this season, and both had good games against the other in the first matchup. Lawson led the Nuggets that game with 29 points, eight assists and four rebounds. That matchup will also extend to the bench, with backup point guards Nate Robinson and Reggie Jackson. Jackson had 14 points in the first meeting between the teams, but Robinson has averaged 14.7 points off the bench since November 25th.
The Pick: If the Nuggets want to win, they are going to need to take care of the ball against a Thunder team who averages 17.8 fast break points per game. In the first matchup, the Nuggets won the turnover battle, forcing 12 and only committing 11. Expect Kevin Durant to have another big night, but if Lawson can outscore Westbrook then the Nuggets will put themselves in a good position to win. Both teams are two of the hottest in the NBA, but the Nuggets are one of the best teams at home in the NBA. They are 7-3 this season, but went 38-3 in the Pepsi Center. All four of the Thunders’ losses are on the road this season (7-4). I expect a close game, but I think the Nuggets can stop the streaking Thunder and pull out a close victory, 110-105.
National TV: NBA TV
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET