Photo: Mark D. Smith – USA TODAY Sports
Plain and simple, the Nuggets have to walk away Friday night with a victory over the Thunder.
As the Nuggets seven game road trip comes to a close, the team is in desperate need of a victory to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race. The Nuggets are currently 2-4 on their road trip and it’s pushed their record to 40-35. That puts the Nuggets in the tenth spot in the West, and a whole game behind the Clippers for the ninth spot in the conference. The Nuggets will need to finish in the top eight to qualify for the postseason, and with just seven games remaining in the regular season, the team still trails the Utah Jazz by two games for the eighth spot.
A loss on Friday night wouldn’t completely eliminate the Nuggets for playoff contention, but it would almost ultimately put the final nail in the coffin. With just six games left after tomorrow, the Nuggets may have a chance to gain some ground on the Minnesota Timberwolves for one of the final playoff spots, but it would take two wins against them in their final two matchups of the season. Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler has been recovering from a meniscus injury he suffered last month, and might possibly make his return for the two teams final matchups.
The Nuggets biggest worry in their matchup against the Thunder will be former MVP Russell Westbrook. The reigning MVP has had an incredible month of March averaging 27.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 9.3 assists per game. Westbrook is close to averaging a triple-double on the season and has really picked up his play after the all-star break.
This is why I love Russell Westbrook pic.twitter.com/pAovpsxhsR
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 24, 2018
Another guy the Nuggets will have to look out for is Paul George. PG13 has settled in with the Thunder and is second on the team averaging 21.6 points per game. George is a threat to score from anywhere on the court, but has really shot the ball well from behind the arc so far this season. George is shooting 39 percent from behind the arc and averages three made threes per game. George is also a fantastic defensive player and is second in the NBA in steals per game at two. What George gives the Thunder on both ends of the court could gives the Nuggets fits, and will be a guy that we could see defensive specialist Torrey Craig matched up against a lot.
The Nuggets received some bad news yesterday as they’ll still be without Gary Harris, who will miss his seventh straight game with a knee sprain.
#Nuggets G Gary Harris (knee) is OUT of tomorrow’s game at Oklahoma City
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) March 29, 2018
Harris has missed all seven games of the Nuggets road trip, but could make a potential return Sunday in a matchup vs. the Bucks. Until then, the Nuggets are going to have to continue and rely on Will Barton who has filled in the starting lineup in Harris’ absence. Barton is averaging 15.2 points and over four rebounds and four assists per game this season. Barton has shot the ball well as of late drilling over two threes in each of his last five games.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) March 27, 2018
Stay tuned to Dig In Denver for the postgame and find out if the Nuggets were able to keep their playoff hopes alive against the Thunder.