Photo Credits: Coby Van Loan/OKC Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder (10-14) vs. Denver Nuggets (13-11)
Tip Off: 8pm CST
Where to Watch: FSOK
After losing two close contests with the defending-champion Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder will be off to the Mile High City as they will be pinned off against the Denver Nuggets. For the Thunder, this game will hold some significance as with a win they will be tied with the 10-14 Houston Rockets for the 13th seed, while a win for the Nuggets will inch them one game closer to the 2nd spot in the Northwest Division.
The Thunder will be absent of all three major guards in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (knee), Theo Maledon (health and safety), and George Hill (thumb.) On the bright-side for Oklahoma City, this game will prop themselves to a nine-man rotation for the first time of the week.
The Nuggets will be left with out guards Gary Harris (thigh) and PJ Dozier (hamstring) for the night. Though these two injuries may seem insignificant, Harris and Dozier both racked up double-digits in their first January 19 meeting, posting 13 and 11 points respectively.
Keys to the Game:
Jumble the Joker
Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic feasted on the Oklahoma City defense in their first matchup, racking up 27 points (12-of-21 FG), 12 rebounds, and 6 assists in a relatively feeble 28 minutes. The Joker did whatever he wanted, but the asterisk to that contest came in the fact Al Horford did not appear for a single second, instead being swapped with 6-foot-8 Isaiah Roby.
Al Horford will need to shut down Denver’s star in order to give Oklahoma City a strong chance in the contest. And based off Horford’s high volumes of steals as of late, it should be wise to give Big Al an edge in stopping the 7-foot spark.
Climb the Ladder
The Thunder game up an unprecedented 63 rebounds when they took on the Nuggets last time, and even more grueling is the sentiment that Denver trampled them offensively— corralling 19 offensive rebounds to the Thunder’s 9.
The clear solution comes in the addition of Horford, but why not look father down the list? Kenrich Williams has been a force on the glass in the month of February, averaging 6.1 rebounds through the month, his expanded role should prohibit Denver guards from finding their way into the easy board. Isaiah Roby will more used more frugally than last game, but you cannot glare over his 4.7 rebound average, which could easily be blustered on Friday.
Multitude of Options in the Mile High City
Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a plethora of options will need to be established in his place. The Thunder did a stupendous job in finding a supporting cast vs. the Lakers on Wednesday, seeing a 15 point, 13 rebound double-double from Hamidou Diallo, a 25-point outing from Al Horford, but most importantly a 24-point bombshell from the hands of Kenrich Williams.
Every one of last games previous options will need to step up to the plate against Denver, but even more may be needed for a win. Look towards bench players in Justin Jackson, Mike Muscala, and Darius Miller for potential outbreaks.
The biggest potential x-factor comes from forward Darius Bazley. The 20-year-old faced a lot of hurdles against the Lakers, scoring just 7 point on 4-of-15 shooting, but as shown in the past— he typically spikes back up with a major outburst on a whim.