After extra rest, pesky Thunder set to meet Nuggets

NBA Basketball

The Oklahoma City Thunder were warmed up and ready to play the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night when the game was abruptly postponed due to contact tracing issues with the Sixers.

So instead of a chance to get over the .500 mark, Oklahoma City had an impromptu practice to get ready for a road matchup with the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

The gap in the schedule might have been welcome for some, but chances are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would have preferred to play. Gilgeous-Alexander has been surging recently, averaging 25.2 points over the last five games, including a 33-point effort in a comeback win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

He hit 13-of-19 shots in the victory but wasn’t completely satisfied with his big night.

“I still had a few mishaps and mistakes there down the stretch and that can’t happen if we want to be the best basketball team that we can be, so I’m going to go back and watch film and learn from them,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

Gilgeous-Alexander is part of a makeover by Oklahoma City over the past few years. The team traded point guard Chris Paul to Phoenix in the offseason and sent Steven Adams to New Orleans in a four-team deal that netted George Hill, four other players and draft picks. The Thunder also moved Danilo Gallinari to Atlanta in a sign-and-trade deal.

Revamping the roster has made the Thunder much younger and prone to bouts of inconsistency, much like the young but playoff tested Nuggets. Denver has won the Northwest Division the last two seasons but has put in uneven performances while adjusting to roster changes.

Sunday night was an example. The Nuggets had chances to beat Utah at home but missed several layups and had defensive breakdowns that let the Jazz leave town with a 109-105 victory.The only thing Denver has been able to bank on every night is the play of Nikola Jokic.

The 7-foot Jokic is averaging a triple-double 13 games into the season (25.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.3 assists), and has not had a down game this season. He has five triple-doubles and double-doubles in the other eight games.

Despite those gaudy numbers, he has yet to help his team string together three consecutive victories this season.

“I think it is what it is; I think that league is even,” Jokic said after the loss to Utah. “It’s really tough to have a big winning streak, because you can always have an off night. Maybe if you’re really good. Some teams are having, I don’t know how many wins in a row. For us, it’s hard, because we have to play really, really good to win games.”

The Nuggets should get a boost later in the week with third-leading scorer Michael Porter Jr. expected to return from COVID-19 quarantine. The 6-10 forward has missed the last nine games but head coach Michael Malone said he is hopeful Porter will return when the team hits the road on Friday.

He won’t be available Tuesday, but if all goes well he will play Friday at Phoenix.

–Field Level Media

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