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Slumping Thunder visit red-hot Nuggets Thursday
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 1/9/2014  at  6:48:00 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (27-8)

at DENVER NUGGETS (17-17)

Tip-off: Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -3, Total: 208

The Nuggets look to extend their winning streak to four games on Thursday night when they travel to Oklahoma City to face one of the NBA’s best teams in the Thunder.

Oklahoma City has gone 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) since PG Russell Westbrook was sidelined with yet another knee injury and lost on Tuesday night to the Jazz, the Western Conference’s worst team. The Thunder were beaten soundly in Utah, 112-101, as 6-point favorites and allowed the Jazz to shoot 58.8% from the floor. The Nuggets fell on tough times in December, losing eight games in a row SU (1-7 ATS) from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1. Since that time they have been playing much better, winning three games in a row and averaging 125.7 PPG in that span. They defeated the Celtics 125-98 on Tuesday night while shooting 51.8% from the field and holding Boston to a meager 38.5% FG. The Thunder have a 12-5 SU record (10-7 ATS) on the road, and had won their previous eight road games SU before their loss to Utah. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have barely played above .500 (9-8 SU) in the Mile High City, while also having trouble covering the spread (6-11 ATS). These two teams have already met twice this season, with the Thunder taking both games SU but failing to cover a 9.5-point spread in the first matchup when they won 115-113 in Oklahoma City. The second time they met was much different, as the Thunder outshot Denver 49% FG to 41% FG, and outrebounded their opponent by 10 boards (53-43). Over the past three seasons, Oklahoma City has a slight edge in this series (5-4 SU), while the Nuggets have the 6-3 ATS advantage. In addition to Westbrook being out, the Thunder may also be missing PF Serge Ibaka (flu) and SG Thabo Sefolosha (hand) who are both questionable for Thursday. The Nuggets continue to be without PG Andre Miller (team suspension), and SF Wilson Chandler is questionable after suffering a groin injury on Tuesday.

Can the Nuggets extend their win streak against the depleted Thunder? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are sizzling on NBA Best Bets since the start of December, going 61% ATS (80-52-1) including 64% ATS (54-31-1) since Dec. 16. StatFox Zach has a huge 73% ATS mark (19-7-1) since Dec. 1 and is currently 59% ATS (30-21-1) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 68% ATS (19-9) Best Bets record since Dec. 1 and is 56% ATS (29-23) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Gary is 69% ATS (11-5) in Best Bets since Dec. 16, while StatFox Scott is 65% ATS (11-6) in this same timeframe. Since Dec. 12, StatFox Brian has a 58% ATS (11-8) Best Bets record.

Oklahoma City has the third best offense in the NBA with 105.8 PPG on 47.0% FG (4th in league), but has scored only 102.4 PPG on 44.7% FG in 10 division games. Its defense has allowed 102.4 PPG on 45.9% FG in the past five games, but is doing well overall this season, giving up just 98.3 PPG (8th in NBA) on 42.1% FG (2nd in league). SF Kevin Durant (29.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.6 SPG) could finally beat out LeBron James in the MVP race if he can continue to play at such a high level, and will be counted on more with Westbrook out until after the All-Star break. Durant has averaged 35.3 PPG (48% FG), 6.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.3 SPG and 1.3 BPG in four January games and has posted 34.0 PPG (44% FG) with 7.0 RPG and 4.5 APG in two games against the Nuggets this season. PF Serge Ibaka (14.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 BPG) missed Tuesday’s game with flu-like symptoms and his absence will be felt greatly if he was out again, as he scored 11.5 PPG (56% FG) with 8.5 RPG and 2.0 BPG against Denver this season. In 17 career games (11 starts) against the Nuggets, he has scored 9.6 PPG (54% FG) with 7.1 RPG and an impressive 2.8 BPG. PG Reggie Jackson (13.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.7 APG) has been getting the bulk of playing time with Westbrook out, and has been on fire in his past two games with 23.5 PPG on 58% FG (4-of-7 threes) with 4.0 APG and 3.5 RPG. Jackson struggled offensively in two contests off the bench against Denver this season though, scoring 11.0 PPG (38% FG, 2-of-8 threes) with the same amount of turnovers as assists (4 each).

The Nuggets have been a very streaky team this season, and are scoring 102.2 PPG (12th in NBA) on 44.8% FG (14th in league), while netting an impressive 114.6 PPG on 49.1% FG over their past five games. Their offense has had to be great in those games though, because they have been struggling on the defensive end of the court, allowing 106.4 PPG over those same five games and 101.8 PPG (22nd in NBA) over the entire season. PG Ty Lawson (17.8 PPG, 8.4 APG, 1.4 SPG) has four straight double-doubles (18.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG) coming into this game, and has also averaged a double-double in two games against the Thunder this season (23.0 PPG, 10.5 APG). Overall in his 16 career games (11 starts) facing the opponent, Lawson has averaged 13.6 PPG (49% FG) with 5.3 APG. PF Kenneth Faried (10.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG) has been outstanding during his team's three-game win streak, averaging 18.0 PPG (69% FG) and 10.7 RPG. But Faried had only 9.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG when facing the Thunder this season, and has similar numbers in nine career meetings (8.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG). With backup PG Andre Miller (5.9 PPG, 3.3 APG) continuing to be suspended for his outburst at head coach Brian Shaw, PG Nate Robinson (10.3 PPG, 2.6 APG) has been a tremendous spark off the bench and has put up 15.3 PPG (57% FG, 7-of-11 threes) and 5.7 APG over the three-game win streak. He has scored 11.0 PPG (50% FG) against Oklahoma City this season, but has not been great in 21 career meetings (4 starts), scoring 9.6 PPG (34% FG) and dishing out 2.5 APG.

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