The Oklahoma City Thunder made some progress this month despite their last game and hope to take advantage of a big stretch at home which begins with a visit from the improving Denver Nuggets on Monday night. The Thunder were routed at New York 111-96 on Saturday but won six of nine in December and play seven of the next eight at home, where they are 9-4 this season.
Oklahoma City won the first two games on its recent trip against Indiana and Philadelphia before allowing 55.1 percent shooting from the field against the Knicks on Saturday as Carmelo Anthony struggled to 5-of-18 from the field in his return to New York. The Thunder hope to settle back into the form that helped lead to a win over San Antonio earlier in the month when they take on Denver, which is one-half game out of fourth in the Western Conference after missing the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. The Nuggets, who beat Oklahoma City 102-94 on Nov. 9, recovered from a rough 2-4 road trip by outlasting New Orleans 117-111 in overtime Friday as Will Barton went 4-for-4 from the field in the extra period. “We want to be a playoff team,” Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters after the win. “And these are the kinds of physical games you have to win to get there.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, Altitude 2 (Denver), FS Oklahoma
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (16-13): Center Nikola Jokic returned from a seven-game absence due to an ankle injury with 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the victory over New Orleans. Guard Gary Harris accumulated 57 points in the last two games combined to take over the scoring lead for the balanced Nuggets at 16.1 while Barton (15.8) is next, including a 41.4 percent success rate from 3-point range. Guard Torrey Craig made his first career start Friday and finished with six points along with a key block late in regulation.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (14-15): Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook shot at least 50 percent from the field for the first time in 17 games Saturday (9-for-18), scoring 25 points in the loss to the Knicks, and tops the team at 22.8 overall. Paul George (20.3) and Anthony (17.8) give Oklahoma City thee prime scoring threats, but only one other player averages more than eight. Center Steven Adams (13.7 points, 8.8 rebounds) is the top inside threat, but the former first-round pick is questionable after missing the last game with a concussion.
1. Denver PF Trey Lyles, who is averaging 7.6 points overall, scored at least 19 in three of the last four games.
2. Oklahoma City F Patrick Patterson reached double figures in scoring for the first time this season on Saturday with 12.
3. Nuggets PG Emmanuel Mudiay, who is averaging 9.6 points, left Friday’s game with a sprained ankle and is questionable.
PREDICTION: Thunder 110, Nuggets 100