- When: Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 8:00 PM CST
- Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Even though it may not be a long road trip, the stretch the Oklahoma City Thunder are on has to be a bit grueling. In the past two weeks, the Thunder have had a 3 game road trip that began in California and ended in New Orleans. Then they went back to OKC for a game and then back on the road for two. Then back home for two, and now they find themselves back on the road for a one game trip to the Rocky Mountains. If that’s tiring to me, I can’t imagine how it feels to an athlete. With all that said though, the Thunder have won 14 of their last 15, and hold the only undefeated home record in the league.
This is the 2nd meeting of the season between the Thunder and their division rival Denver Nuggets. The Thunder won the first meeting 115-113, after being down by 9 points to begin the 4th quarter. In that game, Kevin Durant (38 pts/8 rebs/6 asts) and Russell Westbrook (30 pts/12 rebs/7 asts) both nearly notched triple doubles, while JJ Hickson and Ty Lawson led the way for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets come into the game with a 14-9 record, but haven’t really had any consistency throughout the season. The started the year 0-3, then won 11 out of their next 14 games, and are currently on a 3-3 stretch in the last 6 games. They usually play at a breakneck speed, but only average 102.1 points per game (good for 12th in the league). Injuries have played a part in their inconsistent start as Javale McGee has been out with a stress fracture in his leg and Danilo Gallinari is still recovering from the ACL tear he suffered last season. The Nuggets’ attack is spearheaded by Ty Lawson, who does his damage by penetrating into the lane, causing the defense to collapse. Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye are above average shooters who are usually the recipients of Lawson’s drives. Inside, the duo of Kenneth Faried and JJ Hickson can gobble up rebounds and cause havoc with their energy. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, as evidenced by having 11 players who play more than 12 minutes per game (min: 20 games played).
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG – Ty Lawson
- SG – Randy Foye
- SF – Wilson Chandler
- PF – Kenneth Faried
- C – JJ Hickson
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Control the boards – Hickson and Faried aren’t overly big, but they are extremely active and attack the boards, especially the offensive ones, with zeal. Because of their lack of size up front, the Thunder are usually forced to play small ball most of the time, with Durant playing a lot of 4 and having to match up with Faried and Hickson.
2. Ty Lawson/Nate Robinson – The key to stopping the Nuggets is to stop the point of attack. Both Lawson and Robinson are adept at finding small cracks in the defense and exploiting them. As difficult as it is, Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Fisher have to stay in front of these two guards or the defense will collapse and chaos will ensue.
3. Bench play – With the altitude and Denver’s propensity to play small ball, the bench will play a huge factor in this game.