Oklahoma City Thunder versus Denver Nuggets preview – 04/09/17

Nov 25, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots over Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Thunder won 132-129. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots over Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Thunder won 132-129. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
Oklahoma City Thunder
Nov 25, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Alonzo Gee (7) guards Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

After a surprise thrashing by the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder will look to return to winning ways when they travel to face the Denver Nuggets. Tip-off is 5:00 PM Eastern.

Even though the game saw Russell Westbrook confirm that he would end the season with a triple-double average, the Oklahoma City Thunder were knocked down for six last time out.

The Phoenix Suns ended a 13-game losing streak but remain bottom of the Western Conference despite beating OKC by 21 points.

The loss means the Thunder, who went into the game 2.5 wins behind the Los Angeles Clippers in fifth, are now confirmed to finish in the sixth seed. It means they’ll face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the post-season. This came about based on weekend wins by the Clippers and Jazz.

But Oklahoma City won’t want to let their foot off the gas pedal and get complacent, as a win for the Denver Nuggets tonight would see them level their record with the Portland Trail Blazers above them in eighth, as they look to return to the playoff seed they occupied for so long.

However away from home the Thunder have the worst away record of any team in the top seven of their conference at 17-22. Despite this, the side have actually won three of their last four on the road, with the Suns loss ending a three-game hot-streak away from the Chesapeake.

MUST READ: Russell Westbrook is the Real MVP of the NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder
Mar 16, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Doug McDermott (25) in action against the Toronto Raptors. The Thunder beat the Raptors 123-102. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Previous Match-Ups

Having only played each other twice, Denver and the Thunder will face-off twice before season’s end, with only a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves separating the two matches.

However OKC go into the game knowing they’ve already beat Denver on both occasions this season. Granted, the first of the series was forced to overtime.

Russell Westbrook has recorded a triple-double in both match-ups this season, scoring 36 and 32 points respectively.

A win tonight for Denver would see them snap OKC’s eight-game winning streak. The run stretches back to February 2015. To do so the Nuggets will likely call upon Wilson Chandler. The 29-year-old has lead the Nuggets in both games against the Thunder this season.

MUST READ: Westbrook clinches triple-double season average

History Maker

Having confirmed he’ll finish with a triple-double average this season, Russell Westbrook looks to make history tonight. If Westbrook grabs his 42nd trip-dub he’ll surpass Robertson with the most in a single season.

After tallying seven in as many games, he has gone two games recording one, despite being close on both occasions.

But the MVP candidate will also be looking to have a better performance overall than he did against the Suns on Friday, as he converted just 24 percent of his shots from the field, and was only saved true embarrassment thanks to nine-for-nine shooting from the line.

Westbrook is the only player in the league to be averaging over 30 points per game however, and will again be the Thunder’s catalyst in their search for victory.

He’ll also look to continue his impressive run of rebounding, having averaged around 12.4 for the month of April so far, which sits above his season average by around 15 percent.

RELATED: OKC Weekly Round-up – history is made

Watch out for The Joker

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s biggest threat tonight lies in the front-court, in the form of Nikola Jokic.

The center is averaging well over 18 points per game this month and scored 23 against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. He’s now scored double-figures in each of his last seven games, as well as in 17 of his last 18 appearances.

But Jokic won’t just be a threat to the Thunder with his scoring – the 22-year-old is developing into one of the best passing big men in the conference, and could cause Steven Adams a lot of trouble tonight if he isn’t touch-tight.

As always Danilo Galliniari will prove a threat on the offense. He leads the Nuggets in points per game with 17.9 but has scored 20+ points in three of his last five appearances – including a 29-point performance against the Miami Heat.

Gallo missed the first match-up between the two teams this campaign but scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the most recent game of the series.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Mar 13, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Mike Miller (C) talks with forward Nikola Jokic (15) and guard Jameer Nelson (1) in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Predicted Line-Ups

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Notable Substitutes: Enes Kanter (C, PF), Doug McDermott (SF), Jerami Grant (SF, PF).

(*) – Roberson missed Friday through injury, he is listed as a game time decision. Should he be absent again he will likely be replaced by McDermott, or failing that, Grant.

Denver Nuggets:

  • Point guard: *Emmanuel Mudiay
  • Shooting guard: Jamal Murray
  • Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari
  • Power Forward: Kenneth Faried
  • Center: Nikola Jokic

Notable Substitutes: Wilson Chandler (SF), Gary Harris (SG).

Game Day Specifics

More from Thunderous Intentions

After going a long time with a full roster available for Billy Donovan’s selection, the Thunder could today be without two players for their match-up with Denver.

Alex Abrines will definitely miss the encounter after leaving the Bucks game due to a twisted knee. Andre Roberson, who was absent for the game against the Suns, could also be unavailable with a similar injury.

Meanwhile the list for Denver stretches a little longer. Jameer Nelson, Will Barton and Darrell Arthur were all absent on Friday –  only Nelson is currently listed as day-to-day by ESPN.

The game, which takes place at the Pepsi Center in Colorado, is set for an early 5:00 PM Eastern tip-off, and can be viewed on the respective channels like Fox Sports Oklahoma.