Preview: Denver Nuggets face Oklahoma City Thunder

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

Following a brief stay in the Mile High City, the Denver Nuggets find themselves in a familiar situation for the next few days: on the road.

Denver did end its two-game homestand with a comfortable 121-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings, which will hopefully build some momentum for the Nuggets to grow over the next two games away from Ball Arena. Nikola Jokić led the way with 30 points as seven players scored in double-figures for Denver Friday night.

MORE: Takeaways from win over Kings

Now the Nuggets (19-18) will look to exact revenge against the Oklahoma City Thunder following their loss to the young Thunder squad back on Dec. 22.

Oklahoma City (13-25) has lost three in a row, but as Denver learned last month, the Thunder can beat any time at any time. In fact, Oklahoma City’s defense has impressed in recent weeks, ranking 11th over the past two weeks, per Cleaning the Glass. It’s the offensive end of the floor where the Thunder have struggled, ranking 29th during that same time frame.

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The battle on the boards

Both of these teams have similar profiles on the glass, with strengths coming on the defensive end while a lack of offensive rebounding has held back both offenses at times throughout the season.

Denver ranks second in opponent offensive rebound percentage, while Oklahoma City ranks 10th in that regard. Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, the teams are very close together, as the Thunder rank 24th in offensive rebound percentage compared to 26th for Denver.

In the first meeting back on Dec. 22, Oklahoma City secured a massive 60-39 advantage on the glass, which included a 15-4 edge in offensive rebounds, as both factors played a key role in the upset victory for the Thunder.

Let it fly from deep

Oklahoma City’s defense has impressed at times throughout the season (especially as of late) but is still vulnerable when it comes to defending beyond the arc.

Opponents have attempted 40.8 percent of their total shot attempts from deep against the Thunder, the third-highest frequency in the league. Even more damaging for Oklahoma City’s defense is that teams have connected on 36.3 percent of those attempts, a top-10 percentage in the league.

After a slow start from downtown to begin the season, the Nuggets come on in recent weeks and are up to 34.6 percent from beyond the arc on the year. 3-point attempts have accounted for 38.2 percent of Denver’s total shot attempts, a frequency near the top 10 of the league.

Get Jokić going early

In Denver’s 108-94 loss in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, Jokić had his worst game of the season by a comfortable margin. His 13 points were the second-lowest output of the season, while the Serbian big man only attempted nine shots in his 25 minutes of action. Jokić also only grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

Against Oklahoma City’s rotation of big men that includes Derrick Favors, Mike Muscala, and rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jokić has advantages against all three of his potential primary defenders. Denver must get the reigning MVP going early to set up easier scoring opportunities for the supporting cast if they hope to secure a second consecutive victory Sunday night.

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