Thunder: Season Success Against Nuggets Means Nothing

The Oklahoma City Thunder has seen plenty of the Denver Nuggets lately. Two games and two wins in a four-day stretch last week, a 3-1 record against Denver overall this season. But none of that matters much now.

“Those wins might give us a little confidence but this is a new season now,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said. “You can’t really pay too much attention to that. The only thing that matters now is what’s happening at game time Sunday night.”

From the opening tip till the end of the series, Thunder players and coaches will focus on not only what they already know about the Nuggets, but also what they might learn during each game.

“You have to pick up things as the game goes along,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “You need to make adjustments then attack areas that need to be attacked and you pick up things each game.”

Thunder center Kendrick Perkins is hoping to find out some extra things about his counter-part, Nuggets center Nene.

“I don’t know (what to expect), I haven’t played against him enough,” he said. “I’ve only played against him two games. I just know I’m a physical guy, so I like to play physical. And I know one thing about playing physical -- you've got to be willing to get hit back sometime, so I’m just going to go out there and do what I do.”

At game time Sunday night the Nuggets might still be trying to decide how they will defend Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who earned his second consecutive NBA scoring title this season by averaging 27.7 points per game.

“To win the scoring title, it’s something as a kid you only dream about,” Durant told reporters after he accomplished the feat. “To do it on the highest level, it means a lot.”

Durant has been even better than his season scoring average against Denver. In four games against the Nuggets, he’s averaging 31.5 points on 48.8 percent shooting. Durant has also averaged 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game against Denver.

The Nuggets have tried several different combinations against KD and they will again Sunday night. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo and small forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler will likely take turns on Durant. According to reports out of Denver, forward Kenyon Martin will get most of the duty in the fourth quarter.

“Those guys are all good. The Nuggets are a tough, physical team. It will be a challenge,” Durant told reporters, “but I’ve seen about every kind of defense people can throw at me. I just have to play my game.”

That is something the veteran Perkins is stressing. He has a NBA Championship ring from his days in Boston and he’s told his young teammates to stay relaxed and do what has seemed to come so naturally.

“I think one thing you can’t do is over prepare,” he said. “You have got to stay relaxed and stay calm because sometimes if you get up tight and you want to do so well, sometimes you can go out there and mess up. So the biggest key is stay relaxed, but stay focused.”

So far, so good on that count. Thunder players had fun with a 3-point shooting contest yesterday between Perkins and Cole Aldrich. Today’s practice ended with more fun and games.

“Our guys play the game through love,” Brooks said. “They love the game. They come in on their off days and I love the fact that they bring everything they have to our practices every day. But they do have fun, I have fun, I love coaching this team.”

The NBA Playoffs are under way now, but Oklahoma City still has another day to wait for the fun to start. Tipoff against the Nuggets is set for 8:30 Sunday Night inside Oklahoma City Arena. You can watch all the action on Fox Sports Oklahoma or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.