Ty Lawson (DEN) — 25 pts, 8/13 FGs
Kevin Durant (OKC) — 34 pts, 7 rebs, 5 assts
Denver Nuggets (46-22) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (50-17)
The top two teams in the Western Conference right now might be meeting in Oklahoma City tonight. And not even the allure of NCAA Tournament games should be able to draw basketball fans away.
Kevin Durant. Andre Iguodala. Russell Westbrook. Ty Lawson. Danilo Gallinari. Serge Ibaka. And the immortal JaVale McGee.
That is exciting on name power alone. Then you look at what the teams have accomplished.
Oklahoma City is second in the Western Conference and a game behind San Antonio for the best record in the West. The Nuggets are quickly coming on their tail. Denver has won 12 games in a row — which normally would get lots of press except for that little win streak in Miami — and continues to impress with the team's all out offensive attack.
The Nuggets are dangerous because so many different guys can beat you on any given night. They really do not have a set formula. But this one is the big test for Denver.
Denver is getting some momentum as the dark horse in the West to reach the Finals. It certainly feels possible with the way they move the ball and especially their dominance at home. However, a Playoff team's mettle is determined against the best on the road. This is not a game that will sink Denver's championship hopes, but it would make a lot more believers if the team could find a way to win at Oklahoma City.
Other Storylines to Watch
-It started off as an off-color Nike campaign. Kevin Durant being accused indirectly of a vicious dunking. Of course, Durant couldn't do it?! He is the nicest guy in the league. Believe it though with the technical fouls and the new killer instinct, Kevin Durant is not nice. Just ask Ty Lawson who said he has noticed a mean streak in Durant as he hungers for his first championship.
-The Nuggets and the Thunder have a nice rivalry developing and it should last for a long time. Both Durant and Lawson are locked in with their teams for the foreseeable future and both have teams capable of winning.
Tonight's Other Games
Maurice Harkless (ORL) — 10 pts, 8 rebs, 4 stls
Tyler Hansbrough (IND) — 14 pts, 14 rebs, 9 off. rebs
Orlando Magic (18-49) vs. Indiana Pacers (41-26)
Rookie Magic general manager Rob Hennigan was roundly criticized when he traded Dwight Howard to the Lakers and opted not to get Andrew Bynum in return. It complicated the deal, requiring four teams to be involved to get the deal done. Eventually Bynum ended up in Philadelphia. Now that Bynum is out for the year, Hennigan might have a smirk on his face and thoughts of "I told you so." Orlando is struggling record-wise but have a nice center prospect in second-year pro Nikola Vucevic.
LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) — 21 pts, 15 rebs
Monta Ellis (MIL) — 21 pts, 8 rebs, 9 assts
Portland Trail Blazers (31-35) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (33-32)
LaMarcus Aldridge's big day was kind of ruined. He was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday and proceeded to lead his Blazers on a big comeback against the Sixers on the road. When push came to shove at the end, Aldridge could not get the final tip in to go and the Sixers escaped with the win. All the congratulations had to stop for a while.
Blake Griffin (LAC) — 20 pts, 8/11 FGs
DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) — 17 pts, 8 rebs
Los Angeles Clippers (46-21) vs. Sacramento Kings (23-44)
The Clippers have the luxury of having two really strong point guards in Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. As the Playoffs come closer, Vinny Del Negro will have to figure out the most efficient way to employ his two guards. Billups wants the ball in his hands and his seasoned enough to get the Clippers into the right sets and find the right guys. Chris Paul is also Chris Paul. Either way, it does not seem Los Angeles could lose.