After finishing off a 122-110 road victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 3, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone let out a sigh of relief.
Malone was relieved his team had survived a 37-point, 13-of-17 shooting effort from the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
“That guy is unguardable,” Malone said. “I mean he is a hell of a player.”
On Wednesday, Malone and the Nuggets face the Thunder for the first time since that game as the teams play in Oklahoma City.
While Gilgeous-Alexander has been excellent in the Thunder’s two games against the Nuggets, Denver’s Nikola Jokic has been even better.
Jokic has averaged 17 points, 14.5 rebounds and 13.5 assists in those games, both Nuggets wins. Two of Jokic’s three triple-doubles this season have come against the Thunder.
Jokic nearly picked up his fourth of the season Tuesday night in a 110-108 home loss to Detroit. He finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. It was Jokic’s first game back after missing three games due to health and safety protocols.
Jamal Murray also has played a major role in Denver’s wins over the Thunder this season, averaging 20 points in those games.
Murray’s return from missing two games due to health and safety protocols didn’t go as swimmingly as Jokic’s. He was just 3-for-12 in the loss to the Pistons.
The Nuggets have played just one back-to-back this season, and Murray has yet to play on consecutive nights since returning from the injury that kept him out all of last season.
Denver has lost three of its last four.
This will be the 12th road game of the Nuggets’ first 18. No team in the league has played fewer home games.
The Thunder have lost back-to-back games and seven of their last 10.
A big reason for Oklahoma City’s recent slide has been its defense.
“We’ve been bad on that end,” Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey said. “There’s no sugarcoating it. We’ve given up a lot of points. In some games it’s been overshadowed by us winning games.”
In early November, the Thunder were in the top 10 in the league in defensive efficiency. But, in the last seven games, the Thunder have surrendered an average of more than 125 points per game. They are 28th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 117.6 points per 100 possessions.
“We gotta get back to work,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We gotta dig in a little bit. I’m not questioning our guys’ effort by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve gotta dig in and have some pride on that end of the floor.
“It’s nothing that isn’t inside of us.”
Denver’s Jeff Green will miss his second consecutive game with a bone bruise in his right knee.
Bones Hyland, the Nuggets’ leading bench scorer, left Tuesday’s loss in the second quarter due to an illness and did not return.
The Thunder will be without Mike Muscala, who suffered a broken pinky in Monday’s loss to the Knicks. Aleksej Pokusevski is expected to miss his second consecutive game with a left ankle sprain.
–Field Level Media