Pregame Primer from OKC perspective:
Getting that first game out of the way was big. Having a 1-0 cushion and a little pressure off I think will help the Thunder more than you think. But here’s the thing: Denver only came to OKC really looking for a split. And that’s still very much on the table.
Taking a 2-0 lead to Denver is big for a lot of reasons (the biggest that you’re up 2-0…) but not giving the Nuggets any added confidence is very large. Taking control of a series like this entirely is what OKC needs to do and the opportunity is there tonight.
Obviously the Nuggets main focus will be to tone down Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook a bit. And I agree with George Karl. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren’t going to average 70 points a game together for this series. They’re really good, but not that good.
But here’s news to Karl: James Harden isn’t going to average just five a game either.
That was the Thunder sixth man’s output from Game 1 where he went 0-4 from 3 and 1-5 from the field. Since the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston, Harden averaged more than 16 points per game and almost 20 the last couple weeks of the season. He’s a legit third scorer for the Thunder and a player Scott Brooks can turn to when in need of extra offense. Shutting down Durant is priority one for Denver, then Westbrook. The Nuggets caught a break with Harden being off in Game 1. Don’t count on that happening again.
Both teams shot the ball extremely well in Game 1. Durant and Westbrook combined to go 18-25 on jumpshots. Can these teams keep it up? Both teams are gifted offensively and have scorers all over the floor, but maintaining a 50 percent clip in the playoffs no less is difficult. Will it continue? I say no, which means this game will likely be more about defense and rebounding. Who has the edge there? Probably the Thunder.
I know that I’m not nearly as anxious or terrified heading to the arena tonight. That doesn’t mean anything of course but I feel like the team will be a bit more relaxed as well. The Thunder won Sunday despite playing a good amount of poor basketball. OKC is better than Denver. It’s hard to argue with 3-0. But if the Thunder slacks in any way, the Nuggets will beat them. I have a good feeling though. Which is what is starting to scare me most.