Nuggets-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 16, 2013
When two of the NBA's hottest teams meet Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, one thing seems like a certainty: a lot of points. The Thunder look for their fifth straight win and 10th in 12 games as they face the Denver Nuggets, who put their season-high six-game winning streak on the line. Both clubs rank near the top of the league in scoring with Oklahoma City at 105.1 points per game and Denver at 102.7. Oklahoma City leads the NBA with a 30-8 record and has won 14 of 15 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, averaging 109.3 points in that stretch. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carried the offense in a 102-90 road win against Phoenix on Monday, with the duo scoring 47 of the team's 51 second-half points. "You don't see that often, two guys just take over the game offensively in that second half," coach Scott Brooks said. "You can't say anything other than just make sure you set good screens and make sure you execute and run the plays. ... We have a couple of sets that we run where we look for opportunities to get quick baskets. They ran it to perfection." Durant, who had 27 of his game-high 41 points after the break, is shooting 56.1 percent in eight games this month. He averaged 35.7 points on 59.1 percent shooting in three games against Denver last season, scoring a career-high 51 in a 124-118 overtime win against the Nuggets on Feb. 19. The Thunder defense has also been stronger recently, limiting opponents to 90.9 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting over the last seven contests. The last two foes combined to shoot 38.8 percent despite Serge Ibaka being out with a chest contusion. Ibaka, Oklahoma City's leading rebounder (8.4) and shot-blocker (2.8), is day to day. "It's not a secret," center Kendrick Perkins said. "We're a defensive team first and we're going to keep building on that. Our goal is, every game, we have to keep the team under 40 percent. We're just trying to start off the defensive end. We know we're going to score points. We just have to keep our 'D' up." That could be a challenge against Denver (24-16), which needed overtime to extend its win streak Tuesday against Portland. A 3-pointer from Wilson Chandler with 14.9 seconds left in the extra session put the Nuggets ahead for good in a 115-111 win. It was only Chandler's second game back after he missed two months with a hip injury. A labral tear in his left hip was surgically repaired in the spring, but the pain returned in November. "The way the game was going for me, I was a little fatigued," said Chandler, who has 27 points in 40 minutes of action since returning. "I had a little muscle fatigue, so I was kind of struggling throughout the game. So to come in and hit a shot like that is big." Point guard Ty Lawson, who had 24 points and 12 assists against Portland, continues to run the offense effectively and owns a 4.3 assist-to-turnover ratio over his last five games. "I was trying to attack, and when I attack, it brings assists because people have to double me or come over and help," Lawson said. The Nuggets are averaging 109.8 points during their six-game winning streak, though all but one of those games were played in Denver, where they are 15-2. They've been far less consistent on the road, but they won their last trip to Oklahoma City 106-101 on April 25 despite a combined 62 points from Durant and Westbrook.
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