Thunder look to get back on track in the Mile High City

After going 2-7 in their last 9 games, the Thunder find themselves 8-8 after a franchise-best 6-1 start. They head out to Denver and play their last game of a three-game road trip.

The Nuggets have played well recently, going 3-2 in their last 5 games. To add to that, the Thunder have had their recent struggles and are in the midst of playing their fourth game in a five night stretch. They’ve lost the first two, and are at risk of going below .500.

Should the Thunder lose this game, things will only go downhill. Let’s look back at the most recent three games for Oklahoma City and the rather negative fallout from the game. It is a tough challenge for any athlete to play in Denver due to its altitude. That is the case especially after a back-to-back.

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Sudden rough patch

The last three games were supposed to represent a soft spot of the schedule for the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, that was not the case.

The Thunder found themselves at a deficit in the past three games heading into the fourth quarter.

Nov 23, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) looks on against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Golden 1 Center. The Kings beat the Thunder 116-101. Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

They only had a positive rebound differential in one of the games (versus the Lakers) which is alarming considering that rebounding is a strength for the team, as indicated by them having the fifth best rebounding differential in the NBA (+3.7).

Lackadaisical defense costing the Thunder

The Thunder are giving up the eighth largest opponent 3P% (36%) over the course of the season. That figure was at 33.2% before the Pacers game.

They gave up 11.7 threes/game over the last three games. For comparison, the Wizards (who give up the most 3-pointers/game in the NBA) give up 11 threes/game.

And it certainly doesn’t help them at all that the Nuggets, who shoot 35.2% from 3-point range, have a sharpshooter in Jamal Murray. Murray has shot 45% from 3-point range on four 3PA/game in his rookie season.

Deja Vu?

The Nuggets’ only injury concerns are for their leading scorer Danilo Gallinari, who is questionable with a right thigh injury. He sat out on Wednesday against the Utah Jazz.

Remember the last time the Thunder faced a team without their leading scorer? That was against the Pacers, who were without All-Star forward Paul George. They lost that game by a score of 115-111Therefore, this is by no means an easy game.

Nov 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) defends against Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Board crashing

Both teams are rebounding monsters, with Denver giving up the second lowest OREB rate in the NBA, at .198. The Thunder have 45.5 rebounds/game, while Denver have a monstrous 49.9 rebounds/game. Denver has an NBA-best +7.6 rebound differential.

Expectations

Denver turns the ball over 15.7 times a game, while OKC does that 15.8 times/game.

Both teams are elite at limiting offensive rebounds and are also good at grabbing them. Every rebound will be hard-earned, and that will certainly be a difference maker in this game.

This game will turn out to be fast-paced, physical, an eyesore at times. Expect this game to be close, with the winner clinching victory in the very last minutes. The Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly capable of getting a comeback victory, as they rank sixth in fourth quarter scoring. The Thunder have won every game against Denver since November the 19th, 2014, and may very well continue their winning ways against the Nuggets.

Score prediction: Thunder 112, Nuggets 108

Tipoff is at 9 PM ET. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.

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