Preview: Denver Nuggets look to keep rolling against Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (36-25) have had a couple of days off, but they are back in action tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder (19-42) as they’re starting a five-game homestand tonight. The Nuggets had been up and down all season, but they’ve been one of the best teams in the league since the calendar flipped to 2022. Meanwhile, the Thunder have been looking to continue to develop their young players as they work through their rebuild.

Denver has been one of the best teams in the NBA over the last month, and they’re sporting a six-game winning streak while winning eight of their last 10. They remain in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference, and they currently sit just 2.5 games back of the fourth-place Utah Jazz. They need every possible win to become able to host a playoff series as a top-four team.

For OKC, they have had flashes of promise from young guys all year, but, with injuries around the entire roster, they’re in a bit of a tough spot. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander remains one of the league’s brightest young stars, but he’s working with an interesting cast around him as of now. However, even when he isn’t surrounded by the most talent, he’s still one of the most exciting players to watch when he’s shooting the ball well.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (36-25, 17-10 home) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (19-42, 10-21 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball 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 Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Welcome to Loud City

Expected Starting Lineups:

OKC: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG Tre Mann, SF Aleksej Pokusevski, PF Darius Bazley, C Isaiah Roby

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

Injuries: Josh Giddey (hip), Lugentz Dort (shoulder), Ty Jerome (hip), Kenrich Williams (knee), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (foot), Zeke Nnaji (knee), Aaron Wiggins (ankle)

Three Things to Watch

Defending Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

When the Thunder win games, it’s on the back of Shai’s offense. The fourth-year guard has been putting up outstanding numbers all season long, and he had a great game against the Nuggets in their meeting back in December when the Thunder upset Denver. In the next meeting, Denver held him to just 2-of-14 shooting and came away with a win. If the Nuggets can slow down his offense, that will go a long way towards victory tonight.

Bench Battle

Denver’s bench has been on fire as of late, and that has been pivotal to their six-game winning streak. In the previous meeting between these two squads, Austin Rivers had a strong outing with 22 points off of the bench. OKC has been hit hard by injuries which should give Denver an even bigger advantage when their second unit is on the floor, but they’ll need to actually capitalize on that advantage to be successful.

Don’t Make It Close

In the previous two meetings this season, the Nuggets were blown out in the first game before winning by four in the second matchup. As well as they are playing right now, they have to leave no doubt in this game. The starters will need all of the rest they can get as this team heads towards the playoffs, and crushing Oklahoma City by a wide margin would only give them more time to recuperate.

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