Thunder Takes Huge Game in Denver

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:19 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Apr 5, 2011 10:40 PM CDT

Grant Belcher
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

DENVER – With the playoffs looming and the team struggling, it was time for the Thunder to make a statement.

No better way to do that than knocking off perhaps the hottest team in the league on the road.

Oklahoma City executed to near-perfection on the defensive end of the floor against the league’s best offensive team in a 101-94 victory on Tuesday.

Denver came into the game averaging 107.3 points on the season, easily the highest average in the NBA. The Nuggets had also won six straight overall and 10 straight at home.

At the same time, Kevin Durant led the offensive attack to help the Thunder fire on all cylinders against their Northwest Division rivals.

OKC jumped out to a strong start and led by 11 points after the first quarter. But the Nuggets closed the gap significantly, outscoring the Thunder 31-21 in the second quarter to trail one at half.

But in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City asserted itself in perhaps its most impressive stretch of basketball of the year.

Trailing 72-69, the Thunder went on a 16-0 run, blocking shots, picking up steals and converting on fast breaks to take a commanding lead.

Denver tried to make it interesting in the end, rallying to within four before OKC hit its free throws down the stretch to seal it.

With the victory, Oklahoma City put significant distance between itself and Denver in the Western Conference and Northwest Division standings.

The Thunder’s magic number to clinch the division title and home court advantage in the playoffs is now down to one game, meaning any Thunder win or Denver loss for the rest of the regular season secures it.

Even if Oklahoma City went 1-4 and Denver went 5-0 over the final five games, resulting in a tie, OKC's division record will still be better than the Nuggets' giving OKC the tiebreaker, the fourth seed and home court advantage.

Durant had 32 points and nine rebounds to lead the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook added 16.

Kendrick Perkins had a season-high 14 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 11 boards.

As a team, the Thunder outrebounded the Nuggets 50-41.

OKC will host the Nuggets at home on Friday, but will first take on Blake Griffin and the Clippers in Oklahoma City. Tipoff for the L.A. game is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday.