Denver Nuggets vs OKC Thunder: 2 Focal Game Keys

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) shoots the ball over Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets will return home after a tough game in Utah to face another inner-division rival in the OKC Thunder and their star, Russell Westbrook.

The Denver Nuggets are back at it again after a blowout loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. The team got to fly home for thanksgiving, and after that feat, they will be back out on the court to take on arguable the NBA’s best player.

Although the Thunder have Russell Westbrook, they have dropped their last three and are now 8-8. The Northwest, that was once thought of as the best NBA division, now has zero teams above .500.

With the 6-9 Nuggets sitting at #10 in the West and losing several close games, this home game is another example of a must-win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. With that said, the Nuggets have been playing poorly lately besides their seventh overall pick that has scored 18, 24, and 23 in his last three games respectively.

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As the Nuggets who have been plagued with the injury bug try to fight to the playoffs, they will have to take a look at and accomplish these two game tasks in order to capture their seventh win.

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots the ball over Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Slow Down Russell Westbrook

First of all, notice I did not say stop Russell Westbrook because as we have seen this year, that is impossible.

The triple-double machine has been imposing his will upon other teams but at what cost? He leagues the NBA in points per game, but he does average 5.3 turnovers per game. This will be the key for this young backcourt of the Denver Nuggets.

With a big 6’5″ Emmanuel Mudiay leading the charge, they need to body Westbrook up and continue to force him to turn the ball over. The two keys to stopping Westbrook are to making him take contested shots and not to allow him to get to the free throw line.

Westbrook averages 10.8 free throws per game which is easily the highest in the NBA. To prevent him from annihilating your team, Coach Malone needs to have Emmanuel Mudiay step up tonight.

The Denver Nuggets have seen their Mudiay-Murray-Chandler-Gallinari-Faried lineup have an incredible defensive rating, so maybe this would be Malone’s choice late in the game. Especially with the explosion of Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay ability to feast off of his shooting, this could be vital for the Nuggets success.

Nov 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (5) takes a shot in the second quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Offense Needs to Get Going—- in the First

The Nuggets, who are thirteenth in the NBA in points per game at 104.7, are 24th in first quarter scoring at 24.8. In their last couple games, especially their last game, they have been getting out to extremely weak starts.

Actually, the Nuggets are 29th in first quarter scoring at home. They score just 22.6 points per quarter at the Pepsi Center. For Coach Malone and his staff, this must be a concern. It is almost be attributed to the poor play of his starters and the excellent play of the bench. Nonetheless, these numbers are unacceptable.

This has to change. If they great a 17-point hole in the first quarter again, they will not be able to claw their way back to tie it up before halftime. OKC and Russell Westbrook are too good of a team  to allow the Nuggets to come back.

If the Nuggets can slow down Russell Westbrook (which I know is easier said then done) and come out firing, then they will have a good chance to reclaim their home court prowess and become a more serious threat in the wide-open Northwest.

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