All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have given the Oklahoma City Thunder a reputation for prolific scoring, but their effort on the defensive end has keyed their latest winning streak.
That's a trend that could be difficult to continue against a Denver Nuggets team coming off its best offensive performance of the season.
With Westbrook having a shot at a third straight triple-double, the Thunder seek their fifth consecutive victory and 20th in 24 games Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.
Oklahoma City (30-12) ranks among the NBA's leaders with 108.5 points per game and a 47.6 field-goal percentage, but it has limited foes to 88.0 points – well behind its previous 101.2 average – on 41.3 percent shooting during the streak.
The Thunder held Miami to a season-low point total on 41.7 percent shooting Sunday when they cruised to a 99-74 victory to sweep a three-game homestand. Durant led the way with 24 points, Serge Ibaka had 19 and Dion Waiters 18 as the team extended its huge lead in the Northwest Division.
“It was probably the most complete game we've played defensively,” coach Billy Donovan said. “We used our length and size and from a sustainability standpoint, we sustained for a long period of time, which was great to see.”
Donovan hopes his club can continue that effort against Denver (16-25), which scored its season high in Sunday's 129-126 win over Indiana. Danilo Gallinari led seven players in double figures with 23 points, Will Barton added 21 and Gary Harris 20 as the Nuggets moved to 3-1 on an eight-game homestand.
“When your backs are against the wall – attack,” coach Mike Malone said. “At the end of the day, the most aggressive team is going to win.”
Gallinari has averaged 23.9 points in eight games back from an ankle injury. The veteran guard was held to 15 on 3-of-13 shooting in Denver's 117-93 loss at Oklahoma City on Nov. 1 before sitting out a 122-112 road defeat Dec. 27.
After holding the Nuggets to 38 percent shooting in November, the Thunder ran past them behind their own 57.8 mark last month. They've averaged 120.5 points on 54 percent shooting in winning the past four meetings by an average of 17.2.
Westbrook narrowly missed a triple-double with 30 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in the December contest. Durant contributed 26 points and 10 assists as the star tandem became the first teammates to have 25 and 10 apiece since 1996.
Durant has scored 31.4 per game in his last 14 against the Nuggets, while Westbrook is averaging 28.2 points, 7.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds in his past 13.
After finishing with 13 points, 15 assists and 10 boards Sunday for his second straight triple-double, Westbrook has a chance to join Golden State's Draymond Green as the only players to record three in a row this season. Westbrook had a career-high four consecutive triple-doubles from Feb. 24-March 4, 2015.
The Thunder are 5-0 this season when he pulls one off.
“It just means that it's great that we're having good wins,” Westbrook said. “We're playing together as a team, moving in the right direction on both sides of the floor.”
Denver center Jusuf Nurkic isn't likely to play due to a left knee injury, while point guard Jameer Nelson is questionable with a sprained left wrist.