Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Game 49: Nuggets @ Thunder

(Denver-CO) There is only one thing you need to know about the 11-37 Oklahoma City Thunder - They’re better than their overall record indicates. But, I didn’t have to tell you that because the last time the Nuggets played the Thunder it took Carmelo Anthony hitting a game-winning three from the left corner with under a second remaining for Denver to prevail.

Plus, they have an old friend coaching the team. Former Assistant Coach to George Karl, Scott Brooks, has the Thunder rolling over their last 14 games. In that aforementioned stretch, OKC has been a .500 team (7-7) with solid wins over the Utah Jazz (I snicker as I type that) and the Detroit Pistons. The Thunder are led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Second-year player Kevin Durant is living up to his second overall draft position by averaging 32.2 points per game in his last five games, including a 46-point, 15-rebound performance against the Clippers just over a week ago, with a season averages of 25 points and 6.6 rebounds. Durant continues to improve with every month and there's really no slowing him down. By season's end it would not be the least bit surprising if he starts putting up double-doubles on a regular basis. His rookie sidekick, Russell Westbrook, is fresh off scoring a team-high 34 points in the Thunder’s most recent loss to the Kings, but is adjusting nicely to the NBA game with an average line of 15 points, five rebounds, and 4.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.

The other main scorer the Nuggets have to keep an eye on is Jeff Green. Green, also a second-year player, is the Thunder’s second leading scorer behind Durant with an average of 16.6 points per game and he’s not afraid to hit the boards as his 6.5 rebounding clip indicates. Green scored 25 points and hit a career-high five treys in last Wednesday's win against Memphis.

With all that said, and credit given to OKC for stepping up their game to the NBA level since starting the season 4-30, this is a game the Nuggets MUST win. It’s just unbecoming of a team on the cusp of being considered an elite team in the Western Conference to drop a game like this at this point in the season. However, Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin are both game-time decision and if they don’t play the Nuggets are going to need a much more disciplined showing than last night’s slide-by win over the “resting” Spurs. Denver turned the ball over 17 times and only handed out 18 assists on 34 made baskets against the Spurs and were very scattered in the last five minutes of regulation. Granted, the Thunder are far more prone to getting up and down the court in what should be more of an offensive minded style of play, but nevertheless if Denver plays as sloppy as they did last night the result of tonight’s game could be less than favorable for the Nuggets Nation.

Go Nuggets!

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