Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets
Kevin Durant is doing his part to make up for the loss of Russell Westbrook but the Oklahoma City Thunder are still finding it more difficult to win. The Thunder will look to bounce back from a tough loss when they visit the red-hot Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Durant put up an NBA season-high 48 points at Minnesota on Saturday and matched that number at Utah on Tuesday, but Oklahoma City only got the win in one of those contests.
The Thunder won their first two after Westbrook went down but dropped three of the next five, including the 112-101 loss at Utah on Tuesday in which they were burned down the stretch by Gordon Hayward. “That’s not how we play,” coach Scott Brooks said of the poor defensive effort. “That’s not what makes us successful. I knew the guys were going to battle back and make a game out of it. We had a chance to cut it to two or three but our defense gave up 58 percent shooting.” Oklahoma City will need to tighten things up against a Nuggets squad averaging 125.7 points during a three-game winning streak.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE THUNDER (27-8): Durant has gone for 33 or more points in five of the seven games since Westbrook went out with a knee injury and Reggie Jackson is producing in the point guard spot but the absence of Serge Ibaka (flu-like symptoms) on Tuesday hurt the defense. “(I want to see) toughness and even more toughness and some fight,” Durant said. “We just have to stay together. We lost a basketball game on the road. It’s not the end of the world. … We just have to regroup and be better next game.” Oklahoma City had won eight in a row on the road before falling to the Jazz.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (17-17): Denver cleared the air with a series of meetings around the New Year and is surging in the last three games. The Nuggets destroyed the Boston Celtics 129-98 on Tuesday after putting up 137 points on the Los Angeles Lakers in the previous contest. “Coach let us hoop,” forward Kenneth Faried said of the difference the last few games. “He just let us get out and play. He figured out that this altitude (in Denver) is a killer for teams and the personnel that we have is people who will get out and run, play great defense, and it’s fun when we do that instead of just calling plays all the time.”
* Under is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings in Denver.
* Thunder are 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Over is 4-0 in Nuggets last four overall.
* Thunder are 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a S.U. loss.
1. The Thunder won in Denver 105-93 on Dec. 17 and have taken each of the first two meetings this season.
2. Faried is averaging 18 points on 69 percent shooting over the past three games.
3. Oklahoma City G Thabo Sefolosha is dealing with a finger injury and is just 5-for-22 from the field in the last three games.