The Denver Nuggets visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday in a clash between two of the top-three teams in the Western Conference, who each faced one of the league's best teams already this week.
Denver opened its week with a 113-107 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in new Bucks coach Doc Rivers' first game at the helm. OKC lost 107-101 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, which saw the T-Wolves move above the Thunder and into first place in the West.
The Nuggets are 33-15, half a game back from the conference-leading T-Wolves and half a game ahead of the 32-15 Thunder.
|OKC Thunder -6.5
|Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, OK
|8 PM ET, Wednesday, January 31
|How to watch
|NBA League Pass
Nikola Jokic: Back, out
Vlatko Cancar: Knee, out
Julian Strawther: Knee, out
Luguentz Dort: Ankle, questionable
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Illness, questionable
Chet Holmgren: Ankle, questionable
Isaiah Joe: Sternum, out
Jalen Williams: Ankle, out
Key players for both teams are listed as questionable heading into this matchup, and if any of those players miss out, it will have a major effect on the game.
Each team's starting center is on the injury report, and Jokic has been ruled out for Denver. If Holmgren plays - and reports say that he will play - that will give OKC a big advantage in the paint on both ends of the floor.
Both teams are among the best in terms of field goal percentage allowed in both the paint and restricted area, so any rim protection missing from the usual lineup will hurt the rest of the team.
In the backcourt, the Nuggets have a clear advantage on Wednesday. Jamal Murray is fully healthy, and even if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort play, their respective ailments could slow the Thunder guards down.
Both Dort and SGA are stellar defensive guards, and if they are not at their best, that will open up quite a few opportunities for the Nuggets and their slow-paced, halfcourt-oriented offense.
If the Oklahoma City players listed as questionable are all good to play at or near 100 percent, it'll be a competitive matchup and a clash of styles.
The Thunder enjoy pushing the pace and driving to the hoop (they do so a league-leading 62.8 times per game), while Denver drives the second-lowest number of times per game at 38.4, instead preferring to let players work off of Jokic when the center sets up in the post. While OKC gets the vast majority of its buckets on moves toward the basket, Denver sits in the top five in frequency of post-ups, shots off of cuts, shots off of handoffs, and touches at the elbow.
With Jokic out, Denver will have to adjust. Either coach Michael Malone has a player who can assume Jokic's point-center duties, or he'll run the offense through more traditional guards like Murray and backup point guard Reggie Jackson. DeAndre Jordan - who plays with much more force and much less finesse than Jokic - will likely step in for the two-time MVP at center.
The Thunder and Nuggets have played on October 29 when the Nuggets won 128-95, on December 16 when the Thunder won 118-117, and on December 29 when the Thunder won 119-93. Wednesday night's game is the final matchup between these teams in the 2023/24 NBA regular season.
|Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.