INTEGRIS Game Day Report: Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets – Jan. 7, 2017
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
After landing at 1 a.m. Friday morning during the winter storm that blanketed Oklahoma City, the Thunder had a snow day to rest up and enjoy the creature comforts of home for a day. Now, it’s time to get Thunder basketball heated back up in Chesapeake Energy Arena as the team plays its first of just three home games during the month of January.
Tonight’s clash against the Denver Nuggets is one the Thunder is going to bring effort, energy and focus into as it tries to shake off a tough three-game road trip that ended in three late-game losses. Some time at home was much needed and a chance to play in front of their loyal Oklahoma fans is one that Thunder players are excited for.
Shootaround: Russell Westbrook
“We got a chance to recuperate a little bit,” point guard Russell Westbrook said. “It’s good to get a home game underneath our belt and get our rhythm back.”
The Thunder has bested the Nuggets twice so far this season, but knows that a young, talented and challenging team is coming into town tonight. Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray all provide different challenges on the perimeter, but it’s the physicality of bigs like Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic and Kenneth Faried that make Denver one of the best teams in the league at rebounding, racking up second chance points and scoring in the paint.
“They’re good in transition. Their offense has been playing really well as of late,” Westbrook explained. “They’re playing better and are a different team than we saw before. We have to make sure we’re ready to play.”
Payne Back in Action
Cameron Payne injured his foot at the Blue and White Scrimmage back in September, and has undertaken an arduous journey to get back onto the court. Tonight, he’s finally available for the Thunder and is overjoyed at the opportunity to be back on the floor with his brothers. There will certainly be rust and plenty to overcome after missing much of the summer and then the first three months of the NBA year, but Payne got back into a bit of a rhythm thanks to two games this week with the Oklahoma City Blue, where he averaged 18 points and three assists per game.
Shootaround: Cameron Payne
“I’m just blessed to be able to put the jersey on for the first time,” Payne said. “I’m nervous. I’m ready to be out there in warmups and if my name is called, go out there and be ready to play.”
Although it has certainly been a challenge, the time away from the game has been helpful for Payne, and he’s taken the approach of using the opportunity to his advantage. From getting into the weight room to staying disciplined on his diet, Payne has transformed his body. He’s also transformed his mind in terms of what he’s learned about the game. From watching on the sideline he’s figured out ways to let plays develop on offense and how to position himself defensively.
“I got stronger. That’s what I needed in my game,” Payne explained. “Hopefully at the end of the day it helps me in the long run.”