Just three days ago, the Denver Nuggets hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder and Most Valuable Player candidate Russell Westbrook with everything on the line.
It was a win-or-go-home scenario for Denver in their pursuit of the Western Conference’s eighth seed but a 50-point triple-double from Westbrook, his 43rd of the season — a new NBA record, and game-winning 36-foot three as time expired, buried Denver’s season and playoff hopes.
Now, the two sides find themselves matched up again, this time in the season finale on the last day of the regular season, but now with nothing hanging in the balance.
Regular season game No. 82 | Denver Nuggets (39-42) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (47-34)
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma | 6:00 PM MST | TV: Altitude
The Nuggets shut down many of their vets who have dealt with nagging injuries over the last few weeks against Dallas on Tuesday, allowing some of their younger players, who are usually relegated to the end of the bench, valuable playing time.
Rookie Malik Beasley, who’s previous career-high in minutes came way back on Nov. 10 in a home loss to Golden State, logged 32 minutes and scored 16 points on 6-12 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Beasley was 2-7 from three, but projects as a plus shooter and on Tuesday showed he can produce around the rim, where the No. 19 overall pick in last summer’s draft can use his athleticism to finish over or around defenders.
Here are Beasley’s two threes from Tuesday night, both in rhythm.
Beasley should get a similar amount of run Wednesday against the Thunder. It’s a little early to tell what Beasley looks like as a player going forward, but his D-League returns, as well as his limited minutes this season with the Nuggets, bode well for his development going forward.
A two-way 6-foot-5 athlete that can run the floor and shoot from three is something every team throughout the league covets.
In the Thunder’s 100-98 win over the Timberwolves Tuesday night, Oklahoma City rested Westbrook and Andre Roberson. Tonight, Westbrook will play, probably not the entire game, and Roberson will be inactive as will Doug McDermott, per ESPN.com’s Royce Young.
Picking up the slack Tuesday was Thunder guard Victor Oladipo, who scored 20 points on 8-16 shooting. Rookie Domantas Sabonis chipped in 20 points and 9 rebounds and starting center Steven Adams finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds.
With a win Tuesday, the Nuggets can get to the 40-win mark, which would be a seven-game improvement from last season.