OKC Thunder set to take on Nuggets to start a tough stretch

The Oklahoma City Thunder are set to take on the Denver Nuggets tonight, in Denver which starts one of the toughest stretches the Thunder will have during the first-half schedule. After tonight in Denver, the Thunder then go to L.A. for a two-game mini-series against the Clippers on the 22nd and 24th before a game in Portland on the 25th and traveling to take on the Suns on the 27th. When the Thunder return to OKC they are met with the Brooklyn Nets who at that time will likely have Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving all playing.

At 6-6, and given the way this team has arrived at that 6-6 record, it is impossible to move off your preseason prediction. If you thought this team would tank, then that is still possible. If you thought this team would compete for a play-in game, guess what? It is still possible. After this stretch of games, the Thunder will have separated themselves, at least a little bit, from one side or the other as long as each team they play remains healthy.

That will be a big if because even tonight the Denver Nuggets will be without Michael Porter Jr. A report from Shams indicates the Blazers might not have CJ McCollum during their game on the 25th as the Blazers All-Star is set to “Miss an extended amount of time.”

Those obstacles can really make tanking a challenge, almost as much of a challenge as winning a championship. I think we can all agree that the Dallas Mavericks for example are better than the Chicago Bulls, however, due to rest and the COVID protocols the Mavs missed important pieces in both contests and were swept by the Bulls. The Blazers missing CJ McCollum (and Jusuf Nurkic) for their meeting against the Thunder is just one example of how the record coming out of this tough stretch could look better than the talent level of this team.

For tonight’s game, the Thunder will be without Ty Jerome (Left Ankle Sprain) and Al Horford (Personal). Via Al Horford’s wife on Instagram, it was announced that the Horford family had a baby, congratulations to Al and his family!

This game will be one of only two NBA contests tonight, the other being a matchup between the Pelicans and Jazz squaring off. Both tip-times are set for 8 p.m. central.

What to watch for:

I am keeping a close eye on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, which sounds like a cop-out answer of course we watch SGA dazzle the hardwood every night, however, this is different. Against the Chicago Bulls on Friday in the midst of the Thunder making their 22-point comeback, you got to see a different SGA. The 22-year-old was on fire, showing emotion, and importantly hunting his own shot with a form of aggressiveness that has been rare for him this year. It almost looked as though in that game, SGA realized this is now his organization. He has the keys to the franchise. Can Shai stay aggressive against the Nuggets tonight?

Another thing to watch for with Al Horford out is who tries to defend Jokic? The keyword is try. Even top defensive bigs can not slow down Jokic, much less the lovable Isaiah Roby and building block Darius Bazley.

The Thunder also got valuable minutes on Friday from Kenrich Williams, who has been one of the best defenders in the entire NBA this season, how does he fare in the rotation tonight?

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Rylan Stiles

Rylan Stiles is the host of the Locked on Thunder podcast, a media member with the Thunder and the NBA, and Founder of BricktownBuckets.com.

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