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The Oklahoma City Thunder are in first place in the Western Conference by an absolute hair over the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder have turned their home court into an absolute fortress this season, going 10-3 when playing in Oklahoma.
Against the Denver Nuggets, the Oklahoma City Thunder will want to gain some ground on a team just 0.5 games behind them. The Western Conference is so packed at the top that only 1.5 games separate first place from fifth place.
The Denver Nuggets are jockeying for position in the Western Conference and currently sit in third place with only 0.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers who are right on their tail.
As they face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the young upstart Nuggets will look to replicate an earlier season result against the Thunder where they won 105-98. The Nuggets matchup well against the Thunder but the talents of George and Westbrook are so great, the Nuggets will have to give their best effort to stop the Thunder stars from getting off.
In 178 regular season games the Oklahoma City Thunder hold the advantage 98-80 in the season series.
Should the Oklahoma City Thunder win this match, they would gain a one game lead over the Golden State Warriors.
If the Denver Nuggets win this match, they would take first place in the Western Conference but hold only a half game lead over the Warriors.
Are the Thunder Championship material?
Can the depleted Nuggets continue their run?
We’re going to compare the Nuggets and Thunder in an attempt to see who has the advantage in this matchup.
It’s a tough year for Thunder fans to reminisce about. 2012 was the only year the Thunder made the Finals and they lost to LeBron James’ Miami Heat 4-1. After that loss James Harden was traded to the Rockets and soon after Durant joined the Warriors. Westbrook is the last remaining starter from that squad.
Sam Presti did a good job to keep important pieces in Paul George, Jerami Grant, and Steven Adams in Oklahoma City. For the first time since the clubs inception, it seems the team has the truest roster balance to the state of the current NBA. The Thunder are performing well and have weapons other NBA teams can only dream of in star shooter Paul George, paint-enforcer Steven Adams, and MVP/Mr. Triple Double Russell Westbrook. It wouldn’t be wrong to say this could be their year.
From November 7th to the 19th the Nuggets went through a disappointing 1-6 slide to fall deep into the Western Conference Standings. Since then, the Nuggets have gone 8-2 and it is in no small part due to contributions from surprising players.
Take Monte Morris who last season played in only three matches, is now averaging 9.7 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and from three. He also dropped 20 while going 2-5 from deep against the Grizzlies. The Nuggets are banged up, but with their stars out the role players have stepped up admirably to support Jokic and Murray’s incredible playmaking skills.
G-F Andre Roberson is targeting a January return from a left knee injury.
F Paul Millsap is targeting a mid-January return from a foot injury that’s ailed him since early December.
G Gary Harris is expected to need three to four more weeks to recover from a hip injury.
G-F Will Barton is being reevaluated weekly before he can return from a right hip injury.
F Jarred Vanderbilt is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
F Michael Porter Jr. is out indefinitely with a back injury.
G Isaiah Thomas is targeting a return this December from his hip injury.
Jamal Murray is currently averaging 17.4 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 4.9 assists per game. Each of his major statistical contributions this season are career highs. Despite those career highs, Jamal Murray has actually failed to find the mark from three so far this season, shooting only 30% from range.
While his lack of range this season is disappointing, Murray has decided to contribute in other areas of the game. He now crashes the boards in an attempt to start the break on his own and is doing better to find open teammates as he penetrates. Without a firm defensive anchor in Oklahoma’s backcourt, don’t be surprised to see Murray create for himself and others all game long.
In all but two games so far this season, Russell Westbrook has posted a positive net rating. Westbrook is the engine that drives the Oklahoma City Thunder and it has so far driven them straight to the top of the Western Conference.
There is no easy night in the NBA, especially in the West, so going up against the young Nuggets won’t be easy for Westbrook. Taking on the Murray-Jokic screen and roll will be tough and Westbrook’s awareness will be challenged as Jokic creates from the high-post while Russ plays the role of help.
The odds makers have the Oklahoma City Thunder favoured over the Denver Nuggets by 2.5, with an over/under of 110.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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