The Denver Nuggets (2-0) face the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-0) this Sunday afternoon (10/29/23). Get Nuggets vs. Thunder moneyline and spread odds, as well as predictions, starting lineups, injuries, and key matchups.
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction
I am expecting offense to reign supreme, so both teams to score at least 110 points is the best bet here.
Oklahoma City easily led the NBA in drives per game last year, and they continue to hold this title. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Josh Giddey place an enormous amount of stress on the rim due to their size, ability to penetrate the paint, and finishing. That’s concerning for a Denver defense that ranked 28th in opponent restricted area field goal percentage and 29th in Basketball Index’s Rim Protection metric. Chet Holmgren’s presence (3.5 3PA, 71.4 3PT%) also forces Nikola Jokic to abandon his beloved deep drop and play up on the high ball screen.
Denver could pack the paint in an effort to stem Oklahoma City’s drives. Chicago and Cleveland both pursued this strategy against the Thunder, but their abundance of playmaking allowed them to effectively kick it out to the arc. As a result, Oklahoma City is averaging 24.5 wide open three-point attempts per game – good for 5th in the NBA – and owns a startling 49.2 3PT%. The Thunder finally possess the outside shooters to punish collapsing defenders, so Denver would be taking a serious gamble by severely shading inside.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City loves to get out in transition; they were 4th in transition frequency last year. Their pinpoint outlet passes and numerous ball handlers allow them to continuously attack without needing certain players in certain positions. The Nuggets ranked 22nd defending transition offense in terms of opponent shot quality (per ShotQuality), so Oklahoma City should rack up easy points here. Finally, this transition love means they play at one of the fastest paces in the NBA, and more possessions equals more scoring chances. Overall, the Thunder should thrive when attacking the basket and achieve excellent shot quality on three-pointers.
On the other side, Denver’s offense is a machine. They scored at least 110 points in 59 of Nikola Jokic’s 69 games last year, or 85 percent. Nikola Jokic remains the top offensive engine in the NBA due to his historic efficiency and playmaking combination. The 284 pound center is one of the strongest players in the league too, so he can physically move Holmgren around in the paint – a deficiency that Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond already exploited to great effect. Oklahoma City cannot provide help either because of Jokic’s passing and Denver’s three-point snipers. The Thunder’s lack of big man depth will also haunt them too; if Jokic is on the court at any point without Holmgren, then it will be a feast inside the paint for the reigning Finals MVP.
The Thunder are still bleeding corner threes. They allowed the 2nd most last season and are currently tied for the most surrendered this year. That’s a death sentence against Denver because it’s a given that Jokic and Jamal Murray will find the open man. Look for the Nuggets to rain down corner threes and bully Oklahoma City near the basket. Denver should subsequently achieve excellent shot quality and continue to steamroll through NBA defenses.
Overall, we need both teams to score 110 points about 56 percent of the time. Based on each team’s ability to exploit the opponent, that’s extremely feasible and definitely marks this a +EV play.
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction: Both Team Total Points Over 109.5 Points (-130 DK)
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Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Best Odds
The visiting Denver Nuggets enter this game as three point favorites, which is actually a sign of respect by the books towards Oklahoma City. The Thunder need to win this game about 43% of the time for their +130 moneyline to have a positive expected value.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries
Key bench players Jaylin Williams and Kenrich Williams are out for Oklahoma City, while Denver will be without Vlatko Cancar and Jay Huff.
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Key Matchups
Jamal Murray vs. Lu Dort
Lu Dort is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA according to the eye test, advanced metrics, and the players themselves. Per Basketball Index’s metrics, Dort was 8th in perimeter isolation defense, 5th in ball screen navigation, and 6th in off-ball chaser defense. He’s a possession-breaker that can disrupt the offense, so Jamal Murray faces a tough assignment. However, Murray is an elite space-creator, off-ball shooter, and all-around scorer, so he has the tools to thrive despite Dort’s pestering. If Murray wins this matchup, then it’s highly likely that Denver hits 110 points.
Oklahoma City Thunder 3PT Shooting
Oklahoma City’s drive-centric ball handlers inherently create a ton of catch-and-shoot opportunities outside the arc, which greatly behooves Lu Dort, Isaiah Joe, and Cason Wallace. If these three are knocking down their threes, then there is not much for opposing defenses to do given their need to mainly defend the paint. Therefore, the Thunder should easily breach 110 points if Dort, Joe, or Wallace can get hot from deep.