Can Oklahoma City defeat Denver for a fifth straight time during a span of 19 days?
The Thunder can achieve this feat if they upset the Nuggets Saturday night at 7 (PT) at Denver's Pepsi Center.
Oddsmakers don’t see it happening making the desperate Nuggets a 5 ½-point home favorite. The ‘over/under’ is 205.
Denver led the NBA in scoring at 107.5 points per game during the regular season and ranked third overall in field goal percentage at 47.6. But in falling behind 2-0 in their best-of-seven first-round Western Conference playoff series against Oklahoma City, the Nuggets have averaged 96 points and shot 45 percent from the field.
Those two games were in Oklahoma City, though. Now the Nuggets are home where they won 33 of 41 games going 21-17-3 against the spread.
It’s obvious, however, that the Nuggets are having trouble matching up to the Thunder, a budding power seeking their first playoff series win since relocating from Seattle. Oklahoma City is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 road contests.
The Thunder defeated Denver, 101-94, as 4 ½-point road ‘dogs on April 5 and then trounced the Nuggets, 104-89, as 4 ½-point home favorites on April 8. Both games went ‘under’ the total.
Center Kendrick Perkins, formerly of Boston, has provided the Thunder with a solid defensive presence and a shot-blocker to go along with defensive-minded Serge Ibaka.
The Nuggets have had two major problems against the Thunder – getting their offense going and trying to slow down Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Denver was one of the hottest teams after February winning 19 of their last 24 regular-season games while going 12-7-1 ATS during their past 20 regular-season matchups.
The Nuggets were able to achieve this because of a major trade with the New York Knicks, which improved their depth and chemistry. They lost superstar Carmelo Anthony, but still finished as the No. 1 scoring team in the league while becoming a more unselfish team.
But the Thunder have exposed the Nuggets’ lack of a go-to-guy now that Anthony and Chauncey Billups are gone. Oklahoma City has controlled tempo by slowing things down forcing the Nuggets to operate more half-court offensive sets than they would like.
Going back to the past four head-to-head meetings – played during a span of 16 days – the Thunder have held the Nuggets to an average of 93.7 points and forced an average of 13 turnovers per game.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 72 points in the Thunder’s 107-103 Game 1 win. The Nuggets nearly won that game losing in large part on a controversial tip-in by Perkins that probably should have been ruled offensive goaltending.
The Nuggets were six-point underdogs in that game with the combined 210 points going ‘over’ the 204 ½-point total.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 44 points this past Wednesday in the Thunder’s 106-89 win as 4 ½-point favorites. Point guard Ty Lawson led Denver with 20 points. The closest the Nuggets could pull to was 10 points in the fourth quarter.
The combined 195 points went ‘under’ the 206-point total. It was the sixth time in eight matchups that Oklahoma City has gone ‘under’ when facing a playoff opponent. This has all occurred since Perkins became the starting center.
Durant, the two-time defending league scoring champ, is averaging 32 points in the series. He’s shooting 54 percent from the floor and has made 18 of 22 free throws for 81 percent.
The ‘under’ has cashed 14 of the last 20 times Oklahoma City has been a road ‘dog. The ‘under’ also has cashed four of the past five times the two teams have met.
Game 4 is set for Monday at 7:30 p.m. PT with Denver hosting. If the Nuggets are to pull out this series, they must win four of five games during an eight-day span.