A 12-point win over the Suns made the Thunder the first team to reach 30 wins on the season. Now, their West Coast swing having ended to the tune of 3-0, the team returns to Oklahoma City to host Denver tonight. The Nuggets, although not as fearsome a foe as the Clippers or Spurs, are the second best team in the Northwest division at 24-16 and should pose a good challenge for the Thunder.
All Hail Durant
Against the Suns, Kevin Durant scored 41 points. The game before that 33. Before that 42. You have to go back to December 17 to find a game in which he did not eclipse 20 points. Yes, Kobe and Carmelo score more, but they each have much lower effective field goal percentages (.524 and .525 to Durant’s mark of .573). And Durant continues to post career highs in effective field goal percentage (eFG%), assist percentage and block percentage.
I rarely comment on Durant in these previews because his performances are the picture of consistency and eventually there is not much to say other than, “Expect Durant to have a great game.” That is not particularly insightful or interesting, but it is worth remembering every once in a while just how great he has been this year. Maybe, just maybe, MVP-level-great.
Mile High Rebounding
The Nuggets are a decent shooting team, ranking 10th in the NBA in eFG% at .500, but their calling card is offensive rebounding. Kenneth Faried is of course one of the best rebounders in the game, especially on the offensive end, where he trails only Tyson Chandler for offensive rebounds. However, Faried is joined by a couple of other more than competent rebounders in Kosta Koufos, who has an offensive rebounding percentage of 11.0 percent, and JaVale McGee, whose ORB percentage of 12.2 percent off the bench is 20th in the NBA.
While this trio has given Denver more than its fair share of second chance points, they have been less spectacular as defensive rebounders. Faried might have the second most offensive boards, but he ranks just 16th in defensive rebounding. Koufos has a defensive rebounding percentage of just 19.1 percent, while McGee’s is 16.4 percent. The Nuggets still rank fourth in total defensive rebounds, but their team defensive rebounding percentage of 71.6 percent is 26th in the NBA.
Nearly halfway through the season, the Thunder have yet to play their toughest divisional rival. They will have two chances over the next week starting tonight at home, where it should be much easier to beat the Nuggets than it will be in Denver on Sunday.