Thunder Mentally Prepping for Playoff Matchup vs Nuggets

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:19 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Apr 7, 2011 5:56 PM CDT

Grant Belcher
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – There are a number of reasons the Nuggets have been successful lately.

They are extremely athletic, have a veteran coach and lead the league in scoring.

But perhaps the most important reason is that they don’t back down from anybody, as evidenced by their win in L.A. recently, handing the Lakers just their second loss in a 17-game span.

So when you put two teams together that simply won’t back down from each other, the results can be entertaining. Put them together for a seven-game series, and a rivalry can be born.

The league is buzzing about a potential Thunder-Nuggets first-round matchup ever since the two teams have been among the league’s best post-trade deadline.

Kendrick Perkins has given OKC a new, tough mindset (he leads the team in technical fouls despite playing just 25 games).

So Friday night’s game against Denver in Oklahoma City is more than just another game. After all, the Thunder have already clinched the division title and home court advantage.

It’s about making a statement.

If the current standings in the West carried over to the playoffs, the Thunder would be the No. 4 seed and the Nuggets No. 5.

And if that series were to go to seven games, those two teams will have played each other nine times in one month.

So despite what some might say, the mental aspect of a playoff series can play a huge part in a team’s success. And the Thunder knocking off the Nuggets in both Denver and OKC in a span of four days would give them a huge mental advantage.

Of course, OKC is still alive for the No. 3 seed in the West – it is a single game behind Dallas with four regular season games remaining.

And Denver coach George Karl has already admitted he would rather play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round than the Thunder.

Perhaps that mental advantage is already coming into play.

Oklahoma City Thunder (52-26) vs. Denver Nuggets (48-30)
Friday, April 8
7 p.m. CST
Oklahoma City Arena

Where You Can Find It:
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: Thunder Radio Network

Anticipated Starting Lineups

Denver NuggetsOklahoma City Thunder
PGTy Lawson
11.5 ppg, 4.6 apg
Russell Westbrook
21.8 ppg, 8.2 apg
SGArron Afflafo
12.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Thabo Sefolosha
4.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg
SF Danilo Gallinari
15.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Kevin Durant
27.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg
PFKenyon Martin
8.3 ppg, 6 rpg
Serge Ibaka
9.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
14.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Kendrick Perkins
6.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg