Nuggets beat Thunder for first 13-game win streak

Andre Miller isn’t known for voicing his opinion. So when the

veteran point guard started talking, the Denver Nuggets

listened.

A big performance on his 37th birthday started with an

inspirational speech and finished with Miller’s play doing all the

talking for him.

Miller scored 13 of his season-best 20 points in the fourth

quarter, and the Nuggets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-104

Tuesday night for their first 13-game winning streak since joining

the NBA.

”He’s a coach and a teacher and a veteran, and he does it every

day in a very classy way, a very quiet way,” coach George Karl

said. ”And then he can do what he did tonight, where he can take

the most talented team maybe in the NBA and be the best player on

the court for the last 6 minutes of the game.”

Denver took control just after halftime, building a 13-point

lead and then holding off the Thunder as they got back within

102-97 after Russell Westbrook’s 17-foot jumper from the left elbow

with 4:08 to play. Karl put Miller back in the game at the next

stoppage, and the 13-year veteran was a stabilizing force.

Miller had back-to-back jumpers as Denver answered right back

with five straight points, and he went five for six at the foul

line in the final 69 seconds to close it out.

Denver’s previous longest winning streak since the 1976 ABA-NBA

merger was 12 straight in 1982. The franchise won 15 in a row in

the 1969-70 ABA season.

”It’s cool. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t think we would get

this game, but we talked about having some pride, working hard and

practicing,” Miller said. ”We put in a lot of work to get to this

point, so at least we came out and gave a good effort and it paid

off.”

Ty Lawson led Denver with 25 points. Miller also had nine

assists and seven rebounds in 23 effective minutes.

Kevin Durant had 34 points and Westbrook chipped in 25 for

Oklahoma City, which fell to 30-5 at home this season.

The Thunder gave up a season-worst 72 points in the paint –

Denver’s specialty – as both teams struggled throughout the game

from 3-point range.

The Nuggets trailed by 10 early in the second quarter, but then

dictated the tenor of the game the rest of the way.

”It’s easy to fall into that trap. That’s what they do. They

get up and down the court,” Durant said. ”Our game is a little

different. We want to run, but we want to run off our defense.

”Those guys run off of makes, misses of course and turnovers,

but they continually run and pass the ball well and they score a

lot in the paint. We fell into the trap and we couldn’t play that

game with them.”

The Nuggets, who average an NBA-best 57.8 points in the paint,

had 66 and 60 in that category in wins against Oklahoma City in

Denver earlier this season.

”I’m sure they talked about keeping us out of the paint. They

like to get to the paint and the free-throw line. It was just a

battle of the wills, and we figured out how to play some defense in

the second half, and that led to more paint points,” said

Miller.

Kenneth Faried said Miller spoke to the team before the game for

the first time all season, preaching that there should be no

excuses after a 109-108 overtime victory a night earlier in

Chicago.

”Andre Miller is a guy who doesn’t really say too much. …

When he talks, and he talks to the rest of us, everybody listens,”

Faried said. ”Nobody’s playing around. Everybody listens,

everybody locks in and is focused.”

Denver moved within 3 1/2 games of the Thunder in the Northwest

Division and became the first team this season to beat Oklahoma

City three times. It’s also a big win in the chase for home-court

advantage in the playoffs for Denver, which is tied with Miami for

the NBA’s best home record at 30-3 and using the win streak to try

and edge out the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis in a tight

race.

”I don’t know where it ranks in NBA history, but it’s a good

run,” said Karl, who won 14 in a row with Seattle in 1996. ”I

don’t want to get too happy about it because we have a job to do

and we have a challenge. It’s to move in to get home court. There’s

no question that the brand of basketball that we’re playing is

growing and maturing, and our confidence is growing with it.”

The Nuggets trailed 66-65 at halftime, but took the lead on

Danilo Gallinari’s 3-pointer and then followed Westbrook’s tying,

two-handed dunk off an inbound alley-oop pass by charging ahead

with a 12-2 run. Andre Iguodala’s right-handed, fast-break slam –

created by Gallinari’s steal – put Denver up 80-70 midway through

the third and prompted Scott Brooks’ second timeout to try and end

the surge.

After back-to-back Thunder baskets, the Nuggets added to their

cushion with seven straight points – a Lawson 3-pointer, a Corey

Brewer jumper and then an 18-footer by Lawson – to make it 87-74

with 2:59 left in the third.

The Nuggets had six players score in double figures, getting 13

apiece from Faried and Gallinari, 11 from Brewer and 10 from

Iguodala. Faried also grabbed 15 rebounds as Denver overcame a 14-6

first-quarter rebounding deficit to beat Oklahoma City 52-45 on the

glass.

Wilson Chandler, who tied his career-high with 35 points in a

win at Chicago a night earlier, did not return after separating his

left shoulder in the fourth quarter. Karl called it a ”slight”

separation and also said Lawson aggravated a heel injury. Both are

considered day-to-day.

Kevin Martin had 14 points off the bench for Oklahoma City and

Kendrick Perkins had 11 rebounds, but did not play over the final

18 minutes as Denver build up its big rebounding edge.

The Nuggets were 4 for 21 from 3-point range, only slightly

better than Oklahoma City’s 4 for 25.

”The first time us meeting, they blew us out and it wasn’t even

close. They really was taunting and all the, I guess, disrespectful

stuff and we got upset about that,” Faried said. ”Tonight, I

really wanted to come out and prove that, hey, we can compete with

y’all and actually, we’re better.”

Notes: Karl drew a technical foul in the second quarter for

complaining to official Marat Kogut after Lawson was called for his

third foul against Durant’s ”rip move,” when he swings the ball

through a defender’s arms. … Denver’s winning streak is the

third-longest in the NBA this season, behind Miami’s current

23-game run and the Los Angeles Clippers’ 17-game streak. Oklahoma

City won 12 straight earlier in the season. … The Heat and San

Antonio are the only other teams to beat Oklahoma City twice this

season.