NBA Basketball

Nuggets continue tough stretch with visit to Thunder

(Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Denver Nuggets didn't have much luck slowing one of the NBA's most dynamic guards Thursday night.

Friday, they'll have another chance.

On the first night of a back-to-back, it was Houston's James Harden that gave the Nuggets fits. Harden scored 16 third-quarter points en route to 38 to send the Nuggets to a 112-85 blowout loss at the Rockets.

Denver will try to have better luck in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.

It doesn't get much easier for the Nuggets, who are still in position to fight for the top seed overall in the Western Conference as they sit a game behind Golden State.

This will be the Nuggets' sixth road game in the last seven contests and is part of perhaps the toughest stretch of the season for the surprising team.

"We're in the middle of a tough stretch; it's our fifth game in eight days. Tomorrow will be our sixth in nine days," Denver coach Mike Malone said. "But fatigue is a factor for all NBA teams right now. We have to find ways to fight through it."

There's a big difference between the Rockets and Thunder, though, even apart from the gap in the standings.

While Harden had Chris Paul to play off of and demand at least some attention, Oklahoma City could be without its second star.

Paul George, coming off a 31-point performance in Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers, is listed as questionable with left shoulder soreness.

A month ago, George missed three games with shoulder soreness that has plagued him every game since his return.

But George recently has looked much more like the player he had been before the injury, though he's only 9 of 28 from behind the 3-point line over the last two games.

"You see me iced up?" George asked reporters after Wednesday's game as he had ice bags on both his shoulder and quad. "It's been a grind to get to 2,000, I guess."

In that game, George surpassed 2,000 points in a season for the first time in his career.

While the Thunder are 2-2 without George, they've lost to the two playoff-bound teams they've played without him and the two teams they've beaten have been two of the three worst teams in the Western Conference.

For Oklahoma City, the game is the second in a season-long five-game homestand.

The Thunder come into the game in seventh place in the West, on the brink of clinching their ninth playoff appearance in 10 years but desperately fighting to avoid the eighth spot. They're just a half-game ahead of San Antonio for eighth but are just a game behind Utah for the fifth spot.

Denver has won all three meetings between the teams so far this season, the most recent being a 121-112 Nuggets home victory on Feb. 26.

That was a game in which Nuggets MVP candidate Nikola Jokic finished a rebound short of a triple-double with 36 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 29, 2019

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