OKLAHOMA CITY — With the Miami Heat taking up all the media coverage with their 23-game winning streak, Denver has quietly flown under the radar despite riding a win streak of its own. The Nuggets came into Oklahoma City Tuesday winners of 12 straight games and rising up the ranks of the Western Conference standings.
By the time the Nuggets left the Chesapeake Energy Arena, it had beaten the Thunder 114-104 to extend its streak to 13 games, again reasserting itself as the team no one wants to face come the playoffs.
“It’s still March,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “They outplayed us tonight. But we still have time to get better. They are a good team. They are playing as well as any team in this league. “
The streak is the Nuggets’ longest since a franchise-record 15-game run in the ABA in 1969-70. Denver has beaten the defending Western Conference champions in three of four meetings this season.
“We are hot,” Denver coach George Karl said. “And we know the momentum of a hot team can go away as quickly. But the depth of our team, and versatility of our team and how we figure out how to play, and who is going to be the guy every night … (I) can’t deny, it’s a lot of fun to coach.”
The Nuggets (47-22) led by as many as 13 points in the second half before the Thunder cut the lead to 102-97 with less than 4 minutes remaining. After getting a stop, Oklahoma City (50-18) had an opportunity to cut the deficit to three points or two on consecutive trips, but Kevin Durant was called for a charge and Thabo Sefolosha missed a layup.
Denver’s Kenneth Faried hit one of two at the foul line before Andre Miller made a jump shot to put Nuggets up 105-97.
Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson missed a 3-point attempt and Miller made the Thunder pay with another jumper in the paint. Denver led by 10 with 1:29 left and coasted to victory.
Durant led all scorers with 34 points on 10-of-23 shooting. He also had seven rebounds, five assists and six turnovers. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook added 25 points and six assists but scored only seven points in the second half. Kevin Martin came off the Oklahoma City bench to post 14 points.
The Nuggets had six players score in double figures. Miller posted 20 points and handed out nine assists off the bench. Danilo Gallinari and Faried each scored 13.
“We fought,” Durant said. “It’s easy to fall into that trap of playing their game. That’s what they do. They get up and down the court. Our game is a little different. We want to run off our defense. Those guys run off makes, misses and turnovers. We fell into the trap. We couldn’t play that game with them.”
Karl anticipated the Thunder would come out of the gates attacking. He was right. Oklahoma City shot nearly 60 percent from the field while taking a 34-26 advantage after the first quarter.
The Thunder pushed the lead to 10 points before Denver stormed back behind the play of its bench as it outscored Oklahoma City’s reserves 28-16 in the half. Denver trailed 66-65 at halftime.
The Nuggets began the third quarter on a 15-4 run. They got their transition offense rolling, and Oklahoma City’s defense couldn’t keep up.
Denver took control of the game when it started to control the backboards. After trailing Oklahoma City 14-6 in rebounding, it outrebounded the Thunder 46-31 the rest of the way. Serge Ibaka ended the night with only two rebounds. He didn’t get his first rebound until midway through the third period.
“It’s very obvious that when we outrebound teams, we usally win,” Brooks said. “The numbers speak for themselves. They play an aggressive brand of basketball. You can’t get on your heels. You have to hit first and then rebound.”
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