The Denver Nuggets already are at the top of the heap.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to get there.
On Sunday, the Nuggets take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City in an early-season matchup of the defending NBA champions and a young, gritty team looking to take a step forward after making the play-in in 2022-23.
Both teams are off to a 2-0 start, with Denver starting off with a home win over the Los Angeles Lakers and a 108-104 win Friday night in Memphis.
The Thunder are 2-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 season after coming back from being down 10 with less than three minutes left to win at Cleveland, 108-105, on Friday night.
The Nuggets are making an adjustment to being the team that’s being chased vs. being the ones doing the chasing.
The Nuggets have started strong defensively in each of their first two games, allowing just 38 combined points in the first quarter so far, but have struggled to sustain things defensively.
But Denver’s offense has more than made up for it so far.
Going into this two-game road trip, Malone emphasized to his team the importance of consistently maintaining a high level of play.
One of the definitive matchups for the game figures to be two-time MVP Nikola Jokic against Thunder rookie big man Chet Holmgren.
Holmgren is coming off a 16-point, 13-rebound, seven-block performance in Friday’s win over the Cavaliers.
Holmgren’s presence has already made a difference in Oklahoma City’s defense.
Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, missed all of last season with a foot injury.
Jokic is averaging 25.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 9 assists so far.
The Nuggets have won three consecutive matchups with the Thunder in Oklahoma City and won last season’s series against Oklahoma City 3-1.
The Thunder have been without Kenrich Williams (lower back spasms) and Jaylin Williams (right hamstring strain) for the first two games. Denver has been without Vlatko Cancar (left knee surgery) and Jay Huff (ribs) for the start of the season.