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Thunder vs. Nuggets: Free-Throw Shooting Will Be Difference-Maker for Denver

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 20:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder controls the ball against Andre Miller #24 of the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on January 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Thunder 121-118 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Daniel MorrisContributor IIINovember 22, 2016

 

This Friday night, two of the top five teams in the Western Conference will meet as the Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Denver to play the Nuggets.

Each squad is known for their high-powered offense and potential to score triple-digits every time they step on the court.  In what will figure to be a high-scoring and close matchup, expect a unique type of points to be a big factor in Friday's game: free throws.

The Thunder are one of the better free throw shooting teams in the league.  Two of their players, Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin, shoot over 90 percent from the stripe and three more, Thabo Sefalosha, Eric Maynor and Russell Westbrook, shoot better than 80 percent

On average, more than 22 of their points per game come from the line as the team collectively shoots 83.6 percent.

On the other hand, the Nuggets struggle a bit from the charity stripe.  The team as a whole shoots just 68.9 percent, hardly a desirable percentage for a group hoping to make a run in the postseason.

In games pitting formidable opponents against each other, slim margins can often determine the victor.  Often times, a few free throws can be the cause of these minimal differences. 

The Nuggets cannot waste opportunities to score in a game like this; they need to make their free throws in order to avoid a close loss to the Thunder.

These trips to the line will not only help the Nuggets keep pace with their high-scoring opponents, they could also put the Thunder frontcourt in foul trouble.  This could open up the lane for players like Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari and help the Nuggets score more easily. 

If Denver wants to pull out a victory against Oklahoma City in this game, it will have to get to the line and convert their opportunities.

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