Thunder Rally To Beat Stubburn Nuggets
By Randy Renner
For most of the first three quarters the Thunder had trouble containing one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA and the Denver Nuggets even came in with their leading scorer, Danilo Gallinari, out with a sprained ankle.
The Thunder finally slowed the Nuggets down in the fourth quarter and OKC used big games from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter to pull away for a 122-112 win.
Westbrook led all scorers with 30 points while also handing out 12 assists and pulling down nine rebounds. Durant scored and assisted at almost the same pace with 26 points and 10 helpers. They became the first duo to score at least 25 points while dishing at least 10 assists since Karl Malone and John Stockton did it for the Utah Jazz in 1996.
Backup center Enes Kanter also came up big, especially in the fourth quarter when he scored 11 of his 21 points. Kanter also grabbed eight rebounds.
Rookie point guard Cameron Payne got an extended run for a change and showed that he may be in line for even more work. Payne played 12 minutes, scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds and passing for two assists.
"I'm proud of him," Durant said of Payne. "He works his tail off, I'm behind him 100 percent."
Payne played both point guard and shooting guard at times. Many had speculated at the start of the season that Payne might eventually beat out backup D.J. Augustin for that role. Augustin played just a little less than six minutes against Denver.
The Thunder offense hummed most of the night finishing with a 57.8 shooting percentage, OKC also hit more than half their threes (8-for-15, 53.3 percent).
The defense though struggled until the fourth quarter. Through the first 36 minutes Denver was shooting 51.4 percent and had grabbed 16 offensive rebounds leading to a whopping 22 second chance points.
In the fourth quarter the Thunder held the Nuggets to just 40.0 percent shooting and one offensive rebound while outscoring them 31-22 to seal the win.
The Thunder will host Milwaukee on Tuesday and then Phoenix on New year's Eve.