Thunder 117, Nuggets 97

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.