2011 NBA Playoff Predictions: Denver vs. Oklahoma City
Not only did the Nuggets lead the league with a 107.5 point-per-game average, but they also got significantly, and instantly, better on defense following the roster reshuffling that sent all-stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New York.
And the points have been distributed evenly amongst the Nuggets squad, mixing a lot of the “old” (Nene, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Aron Afflalo and Ty Lawson), in with a sprinkle of the “new” (Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler).
In total, the Nuggets have eight guys who averaged double figures in scoring this season.
And this combination or former Knicks and long-time Nuggets has worked on both ends of the court.
Of course the Thunder, who were fourth in scoring in the NBA this season with a 104.8points per game, are no slouch themselves.
With an no -longer-underrated Russell Westbrook complementing MVP candidate Kevin Durant, the entire Thunder offense goes through and to these two.
The dynamic duo combined to score nearly 50 points per game this season.
But after Durant (27.7 ppg) and Westbrook (21.9 ppg), the contributions vary with only two other guys averaging double figures (Jeff Green and James Harden).
As mentioned earlier, Denver has more than twice that number.
But this isn’t to say that the Thunder’s model doesn’t work, obviously, as Oklahoma City grabbed 55 wins and has had a stronghold on the fourth seed in the West for weeks. And certainly adding former Celtic Kendrick Perkins and his 8.0 rebounds per game at the trade deadline didn’t hurt.
But the Thunder don’t have near the depth that Denver does.
And somehow the new-look Nuggets found a way to gel quickly in the Mile High City. They now feature a team of role players who know their roles, as opposed to the ‘Melo & Friends Show that it’s been for more than half a decade.
As a result of the extended minutes for guys like Lawson, Smith and Afflalo have led them to become legitimate team-leading scorer-type players to go along with the already solid options of Nene, Al Harrington and Martin. Add Gallinari, Felton and Chandler in and, well, defend that.
Going against the grain a little here, but I like the lesser-known Nuggets in six games.
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