Streaking Thunder up next as Nuggets look for payback
Denver plays Northwest Division rival for first time since Nov. 18 road loss
One month later, the numbers still make Nuggets coach Brian Shaw shake his head.
On Nov. 17 in Oklahoma City, Denver missed 18 free throws and allowed 19 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second-chance points. The result was a disheartening two-point loss to the Thunder.
“To a team of that caliber, there’s no way you can do that and expect to come close to winning a game,” Shaw said after practice Monday. “We made that evident to our guys.”
The Nuggets (14-9) will get an opportunity to atone for their mistakes when they face NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and the Thunder at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night. Oklahoma City has won six straight games and 14 of its past 15.
“The two big stars in Durant and (Russell) Westbrook are playing at a high level,” Shaw said. “Serge Ibaka is playing well. They just come at your with a lot of different weapons. We’re going to have to play a near-flawless game to beat this team.”
While Oklahoma City’s offense runs though Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder also have a productive bench led by former Palmer High School guard Reggie Jackson. The Nuggets go 10 deep (sometimes 11) and are third in the NBA in bench scoring.
The friendly rivalry between Denver’s starters and the reserves was on display during a spirited practice Monday.
“For us, our job is to make it hard for them in practice, to give them the best look that any other starting five in the league is going to give them,” guard Nate Robinson said. “We take pride in that. It’s the circle of life. We give to them, they give to us and we all benefit from it.”
Robinson scored 14 points off the bench in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans. He and Andre Miller filled in for starting shooting guard Randy Foye for much of the second half. Foye rolled his ankle and was held out of practice Monday, but Shaw expects him to play against Oklahoma City.
The game against the Thunder marks the first of three against teams in playoff position in the Western Conference standings.
Denver plays the Phoenix Suns on Friday and travel to Los Angeles to play the Clippers on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough week,” Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said. “It should test us, test our team, test our will to win. With all these teams that are basically ahead of us coming in, we’re looking to put them behind us and get these wins. If we do, it will set us up going forward.”
THUNDER AT NUGGETS
WHEN: 7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude, NBA TV; AM-950
OKLAHOMA CITY (19-4)
F Kevin Durant
F Serge Ibaka
C Kendrick Perkins
G Thabo Sefolosha
G Russell Westbrook
DENVER: Lawson (hamstring) is probable; Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (fractured left tibia) are out.
OKLAHOMA CITY: None to report.
Although the Nuggets have won nine of the last 11 home games against the Thunder/Sonics, the OKC franchise has actually played well in Denver over the last eight seasons, having gone 8-13 at the Pepsi Center since 2002-03 . . . The Nuggets have claimed 18 of the last 28 games overall against the Thunder/Sonics, dating to the 2006-07 season . . . Last season was the Thunder’s second multi-win season against the Nuggets since 2005-06 . . . The Nuggets claimed a 3-1 series win over the Thunder in 2009-10, marking their fourth-straight season series win against the OKC franchise until the last two seasons . . . Denver has recorded seven non-losing season series out of the last nine against the Thunder/Sonics (had been seven straight until 2010-11) . . . The biggest win in Nuggets regular season history (52 points) came against the OKC franchise on 3/16/08 – a 168-116 win over the Seattle SuperSonics at Pepsi Center. The 168 points also marked the most points the Nuggets have ever scored in a non-overtime game.