Preview: Denver Nuggets look for a road win over Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (15-14) are back in action tonight after a few nights off due to the postponement of their matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, as the Nets are in the midst of a covid outbreak that has swept through their roster. Tonight, the Nuggets matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder (10-19), who are coming off of their 10th win of the season in a stunning victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Nuggets have gradually worked their way up the standings over the last week and a half, and they find themselves leading a pack of teams in the middle of the Western Conference. They’re still dealing with injury woes, but they should be able to get by until Markus Howard (knee) and JaMychal Green (ankle) are able to return to the lineup.

For OKC, they remain in full rebuild mode. They have the cheapest roster by roughly $27 million, and they have a total of 36 draft picks over the next six drafts, with 19 of those being first-round selections. This team is working to establish who the long-term building blocks of this team are, with the early favorites being Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Since getting blown out by the Grizzlies on December 2nd, the Thunder have won four of their last seven games, including a win over the LA Clippers.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (15-14, 7-9 away) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (10-19, 5-10 home)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Oklahoma City. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Welcome to Loud City

Expected Starting Lineups:

OKC: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG Lugentz Dort, SF Josh Giddey, PF Darius Bazley, C Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: JaMychal Green (ankle), Markus Howard (knee)

Three Things to Watch

Outside Shooting

Denver is 11th in 3-pointers per game and seventh in 3-point percentage. That is an area where they can win in this game. The Thunder give up the second-most made 3-pointers per game in the league. Denver has been shooting the ball well from outside as of late, and, if they’re hitting shots in this game, they could put the Thunder away in a hurry. If they let them hang around, the Thunder are more than capable of stealing this one.

Rebounding Battle

With Michael Porter Jr. out of the lineup, we’ve seen Denver take a huge step back in the rebounding department. After ranking 13th last season, they rank 29th in that stat this year. Meanwhile, the Thunder rank seventh in that same category. Denver has dropped games recently when they’ve gotten blown out in the rebounding column. If they’re not hitting shots, they need to crash the glass to get those loose balls.

Non-Jokic Minutes

As one would expect, the Nuggets are significantly with Jokic on the floor compared to when he’s off of the floor. However, over their last few games, they’ve fallen apart with him on the sideline. This is a team that they can’t afford to do that against. Even with Jokic on the sideline, they need to play functional basketball. They’ll only go as far as Jokic is able to take them, and, if they can’t function without him in this matchup, they’ll likely be heading out of town with a loss.

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