What to Watch for in the Nuggets Game Against Oklahoma City

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The last time the Nuggets saw Oklahoma City, on Dec. 18, the Thunder was still trying to get things sorted out with its new players, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder now appears to have put those issues in the rearview mirror.

When the Nuggets take the court against Oklahoma City tonight in a nationally-televised game on TNT, they do so against a Thunder team that is hitting its stride.

Oklahoma City had won eight straight, until a 102-96 loss to Washington on Tuesday. Since the Nuggets last saw them, the Thunder is 15-6. So, they are on a roll. But the Nuggets have played them well this season, beating Oklahoma City at home on Nov. 9 and losing by just one point in Oklahoma City on Dec. 18.

The Nuggets are 19-7 at home this season, one of the best home teams in the NBA. And though they are coming off of back-to-back losses, they are encouraged by the way they are playing in recent games.

“We’ve just got to stick together and now just get the wins,” guard Will Barton said.

How do the Nuggets put themselves in good position to beat the Thunder? Start with these things…

Clamp down on George: Paul George is one of the most potent scorers in the NBA, but the Nuggets have done a great job defending him this season. He’s scored a total of 21 points on 9-of-24 shooting in the two games thus far. Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris have been the player assigned to him most, but it has been good team defense that has helped hold George down to this point. And they’ll need another good effort, because he is coming into the game averaging 23.9 points on 46 percent shooting in the Thunder’s last nine games.

Keep Steven Adams off the glass….and the scoreboard: The Nuggets did not have to face Steven Adams, the big, bruising Thunder center in the last meeting between the two teams. But they will today. And in the Thunder’s resurrection, he’s been huge. In the last nine games, Adams is averaging 15.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Adams is a physical player on both ends of the court and one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. Keeping a body on him when shots go up is a must.

Keep Westbrook out of the lane: This is much easier said than done. Russell Westbrook is as devastating a combination of speed and power as there is in the NBA. But as best as they can, the Nuggets have to keep him out of the lane and away from the rim. Westbrook is an average jump shooter, so forcing him to take contested shots away from the rim gives the Nuggets a better chance at slowing the MVP candidate down.

INJURY REPORT: Paul Millsap (wrist), Mason Plumlee (calf), and Tyler Lydon (knee) are all out of tonight’s game.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.