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Nuggets Vs. Thunder: Can George Karl And Denver Open With A Victory?

Pessimists in this series between the No. 5 Denver Nuggets and the No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder would point to Denver's two losses to Oklahoma City in April as a sign that the Thunder have the upper hand entering this series. Maybe so, but this Nuggets team should not be taken lightly.

As the Carmelo Anthony trade drama played itself out, the Nuggets could have turned into a tailspin and fallen once the trade to the Knicks went through. However, the Nuggets were reinvigorated and went 18-7 over the 25 remaining games. Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari (when healthy) and Raymond Felton all played large parts during that run. Ty Lawson, who became the starting point guard, stepped up and capped off his regular season with a 37-point game (10 threes made) against the team that drafted him, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

However, the Nuggets will need to contend with Kevin Durant (league-leading 27.7 points) and Russell Westbrook (21.9 points) on OKC's offensive side of things.  In four regular season games, Durant averaged 31.5 points, which may not bode well for this series. The Nuggets will also need to solve Kendrick Perkins, whom the Thunder acquired at the trade deadline. Perkins has averaged 7.9 rebounds in his 17 games with the Thunder.

Arron Afflalo is out for the Nuggets with a left hamstring injury, the same one that kept him out at the end of the season. Gallo, Lawson, Nene and Timofey Mozgov, though banged up, are all expected to be available to play.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT, and TNT will have the coverage.