NBA

Thunder stop Nuggets' win streak with wire-to-wire blowout

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Associated Press
1/16/2013 10:49:34 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Not even halfway through the first quarter, Russell Westbrook had already provided a showcase of his All-Star array of talents.

Pushing the pace to earn free throws, getting inside for a layup, popping a mid-range jumper, he had done it all. And the Denver Nuggets were never able to answer.

Westbrook scored half of his 32 points in the opening quarter and the Oklahoma City Thunder went wire-to-wire for a 117-97 victory Wednesday night, snapping Denver's six-game winning streak.

"What can you do?" All-Star teammate Kevin Durant said. "He's shooting the jump shot. If you pressure him, then he goes to the rim. It's like a nightmare when he's making that jump shot.

"So, hopefully he continues to keep making it. ... These last few games, he's been really good at scoring the basketball and taking the pressure off everybody else."

Westbrook's monster first quarter followed a season-best 36 points in Oklahoma City's last game Monday night at Phoenix. And this time, he needed only three quarters to do his damage.

The Thunder pulled their starters with a 25-point edge heading into the fourth quarter. It was only the second wire-to-wire win of the season for Oklahoma City, which has a league-best 31-8 record.

Denver was riding its longest winning streak of the season, but needed overtime to beat Portland only a night earlier and never could match Oklahoma City's energy.

"There's always those three or four or five games a year that you can't get it going, and tonight we couldn't get it going," coach George Karl said. "And you're playing maybe the best team in basketball."

Durant and Kevin Martin each scored 20 points for the Thunder. Durant also matched his career best with five steals.

Kosta Koufos had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets, who fell to 3-6 this season in the second game of a back-to-back set.

"We knew these guys were coming on a back-to-back, playing overtime last night, so we just wanted to get into them and make them make quick decisions with the ball," Durant said.

Westbrook hit six of his first eight shots and had 16 points in the first 10 minutes, with the Thunder continuously pulling away. Oklahoma City scored the first seven points of the game and also had a pair of 8-0 spurts in the first quarter while getting out to a 34-18 lead.

"I come into the game confident, honestly, and I just come out and take the shots that's given to me," Westbrook said.

It wasn't until after Nick Collison's two-handed dunk stretched the advantage to 45-23 in the first 3 minutes of the second quarter before Karl finally spent a timeout. The Nuggets never got closer than 17 after that.

"We didn't have a good offensive game, we didn't have a good defensive game, we didn't have a good energy game. They seemed to be the hungry team from the very beginning," Karl said.

"Their studs got into the game at a high level very early and scored a lot of points. We never got into our flow."

Denver had won after trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime in its previous four games, but dug too big of a hole to mount a comeback this time.

The Nuggets scored 11 straight points immediately after Oklahoma City pulled Martin, its top reserve, and put him on the bench alongside the starters. That still only cut the deficit to 101-84.

It was the fifth straight win for Oklahoma City in its only home game between sweeping a three-game West Coast road and heading back out for six more away from Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"We're greedy," Durant said. "In this league, you've got to be greedy. Just as quickly as you can win four or five in a row, you can lose four or five. You never can be complacent."

JaVale McGee had a couple of highlight-reel dunks among 15 points for Denver. Andre Iguodala scored 12 and Danilo Gallinari 11. The Nuggets had 21 turnovers, one shy of their worst total of the season.

The Northwest Division rivals will play again Sunday in Denver.

Reserve Wilson Chandler, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the Nuggets' overtime win against Portland on Tuesday night, did not play.

Serge Ibaka returned to the Oklahoma City lineup after missing the past two games with a chest contusion and had five points, six rebounds and five blocks in 26 minutes.

NOTES: Asked before the game who should be the Nuggets' All-Star candidates, Karl said backup point guard Andre Miller has been the team's MVP so far. ... Oklahoma City corralled an offensive rebound on nine of its first 16 missed shots. ... The Thunder scored 67 points in the first half. Their season-high for first-half scoring was 68 against Houston on Dec. 29. ... Oklahoma City reserve Nick Collison sprained his right ankle in the first half and did not return.

Russell Westbrook (Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)
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