Thunder vs Nuggets – NBA Pick for February 1st
- Spread: Thunder -1 (-110)
Thursday brings us just 5 games in the NBA, but we’ve got some good ones. The weekly TNT doubleheader features the Houston Rockets taking on the San Antonio Spurs, but the nightcap may be even more intriguing. The Thunder are in Denver to take on the Nuggets.
These division rivals have already met twice before on the season, and they split those games. The Nuggets took the opener at home back on November 9, while the Thunder exacted some revenge in OKC in their second meeting just before Christmas.
The Nuggets (26-25) enter the game clinging to the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. They’re just a half-game up on the Clippers. While LAC did just dump Blake Griffin, we can’t expect them to completely fall off the map. The Nuggets are going to have to keep winning games if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Head coach Mike Malone has been frustratingly inconsistent with his rotations this season. Nikola Jokic became a star last season once he became the unquestioned starting center, but Malone has had Jokic playing power forward next to Mason Plumlee a lot this year. While the move hasn’t completely handicapped Jokic’s effectiveness, Denver is still at their best when he’s operating as the lone big surrounded by shooters. Clogging the lane with Plumlee makes little sense.
It’s worth noting that Plumlee is already listed as out for tonight’s game, so expect Malone to start either Darrell Arthur or Trey Lyles next to Jokic up front. The Thunder deploy a smallish starting 5 featuring Carmelo Anthony at power forward, so it’s a move Malone may have made even with Plumlee active.
Jokic and Gary Harris have really been the only consistent Nuggets on a night-to-night basis. However, second-year guard Jamal Murray has stepped up his play of late. Over his last 6 games, Murray has averaged 22.6 points per game on excellent 51 percent shooting from the field.
As for Oklahoma City, their early season struggles are in the distant past. Losing Andre Roberson for the season will be a problem defensively, but Billy Donovan’s bunch has been on a roll of late. They did curiously lose their last game in Washington, but OKC enters this game as winners of 8 of their last 9 overall.
Russell Westbrook took a passive approach early in the year in an attempt to get Paul George and Anthony more involved offensively. Once he realized that wasn’t working, however, he went right back to being the old Russell Westbrook. He’s not averaging a triple-double the way he did last year, but Russ is still averaging 25.5 points, 10.1 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game. Despite having a pair of new high-usage teammates, Westbrook is still finding a way to stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis.
While George has taken a backseat compared to his days in Indiana, he’s still a deserving All-Star. PG13 is averaging better than 21 points per game, but he’s done his best work on the defensive end of the floor this season. With Roberson gone, George’s defensive responsibilities will be even greater moving forward. Fortunately for OKC, he’s up to the task.
The matchup to watch in this one features Jokic against Steven Adams. Adams may be the most underappreciated center in the game, and Jokic is going to have a difficult time bullying him on the block.
The Thunder have been one of the toughest teams in the league to peg from a betting standpoint. They’re just 21-29-1 against the spread, but much of the difficulty came earlier in the year when they weren’t living up to expectations.
Going into Denver and winning is no small feat, but the Thunder should be ready to play tonight against a division rival. Take advantage of the small spread and take OKC to cover -1.
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