The Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Denver Nuggets (9 p.m. ET, local TV and League Pass) in a sure-bet NBA Playoffs preview. Not only will the Thunder and Nuggets almost assuredly hook up in the first round, but the series looks like a good bet to be the most competitive. Denver has been electric since trading Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton; Oklahoma City is still finding its way with Kendrick Perkins in place of Jeff Green, but the promise is there.
A wild undercurrent is that OKC undisputedly has the two best players in the matchup: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With Nene, Gallinari, Felton and Ty Lawson, the Nuggets might claim deeper top-level or second-tier talent overall, but this is a stars' league, and Durant and Westbrook are the stars of this matchup. Is that a bit of a burden against a team as mystical and flexible as Denver? Or will KD and Westbrook turn their power into results?
Tuesday's game could lend some answers, though it's a toss-up as to whether both teams will come out with the required intensity. As noted, neither team has much to lose or gain in the standings; both are fairly entrenched, though a Denver win here would at least put some pressure on Oklahoma City to win a few more games to ensure home court advantage in the first round. Is that enough incentive for full effort? Or will the (smart) coaches look for rest and health over a win?