The Oklahoma City Thunder insist they are just going through some growing pains as their superstars and supporting staff learn to play alongside each other, but the losses are starting to get ugly. The Thunder will try to avoid a fourth straight setback and bounce back from a loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings when they wrap up a three-game road trip by visiting the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
Oklahoma City dropped a 94-86 decision to the Kings while shooting 33.7 percent from the floor as stars Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined to go 15-of-54 from the field. “We have a whole year to figure it out,” George told reporters. “We can’t really rush into this. It’s something that step-by-step, day-by-day, at this point game-by-game we have to slowly get on the same page. It sucks to drop games like this. We look back down the road in March and April, we’ll be pretty sick about it, but this isn’t when we want to play our best basketball.” The Nuggets are starting to come together and won five of their last seven games. Star center Nikola Jokic broke out for a career-high 41 points in a 112-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday after managing just eight points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE THUNDER (4-6): Westbrook won the MVP award last season after averaging a triple-double and is putting the weight on himself to get Oklahoma City’s stars on the same page. “We will be better because I will be better,” Westbrook told reporters after the loss in Sacramento. “I‘m not worried. I love nights like this. It does nothing but bring you closer as a unit and as brothers. I‘m encouraged by the group of guys we have in that room.” Westbrook is averaging 20.1 points, a league-best 10.9 assists and 9.3 rebounds but is also averaging a league-high 5.2 turnovers after giving it away seven times in Tuesday’s setback.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (6-5): Jokic, who went 16-of-25 from the floor on Tuesday, is averaging 17.9 points on 53.5 percent shooting, 11.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists. “The guy can do it all,” Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters. “It was one of those nights for him, We needed it. ... He is ultra-skilled. Obviously, the way he’s been shooting the ball from 3-point range this year has been magnificent. I‘m going to stop saying he’s a (heck) of a young player. I don’t care how old he is. Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the NBA.” The 22-year-old Jokic averaged 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in three games against Oklahoma City last season.
1. Nuggets G Jamal Murray scored in single digits in each of the last three games after scoring at least 20 points in each of the previous three.
2. Thunder G Raymond Felton went scoreless in 14 minutes on Tuesday after scoring a season-high 15 points on Sunday at Portland.
3. Denver snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series with a win at Oklahoma City in the regular-season finale last April.
PREDICTION: Thunder 103, Nuggets 101