Durant scores 51 as Thunder top Nuggets 124-118

By Jeff Latzke

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Feb. 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Durant said he believes he and Westbrook, a fellow All-Star, are starting to play better off of one another this season. There was buzz in last year's playoffs, starting with a first-round series against Denver, that Westbrook was taking too many shots and the chemistry between the pair was lacking.

They took turns deflecting credit after this mammoth performance.

"People might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime," Durant said.

It was a wildly back-and-forth game from the start, with big swings in either direction.

The Nuggets took an early lead before allowing a 16-2 Oklahoma City run that featured a pair of 3-pointers from Durant and Westbrook's driving dunk. Afflalo then had two jumpers and a finger roll in transition as Denver scored the final 10 points to lead 27-25.

That was only the start of a 29-7 Nuggets run, though.

Reserve Kosta Koufos, forced into action after Al Harrington picked up three fouls, had a three-point play and two layups set up by Miller. Chris Andersen's fast-break layup made it 46-32 with 6:29 left before halftime — Oklahoma City's largest deficit at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season.

It still didn't take the Thunder long to wipe it away, with a 20-0 run spanning halftime.

Durant had a two-handed slam off Westbrook's alley-oop and a right-handed fast-break jam in a span of three possessions, and Oklahoma City led 65-58 with 8:04 left in the third.

Then it was Denver's turn again, rallying back to take a brief lead late in the third and then getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Harrington just after Durant and Westbrook re-entered for a 93-84 advantage with 8:50 to play.

Oklahoma City whittled away and finally pulled even at 102 when Westbrook connected on a jumper from the foul line with 2:52 to play. Ibaka swatted Lawson's shot 20 seconds later for his 10th block in regulation.

Lawson hit a 3-pointer and Harrington two free throws for a 111-106 Denver lead with 43 seconds left, but Durant hit a second-chance 3-pointer from the top of the key with 30 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a chance.

He drove past Andersen for a dunk with 4.4 seconds remaining to tie it up.

"We were kind of laughing and saying, 'When was the last time he missed a shot in the fourth quarter against us?' He makes everything," Karl said.

"There's an offensive rebound. Why does he come wide open? Why can't someone else come wide open?"

Still, it was the first time Durant made it to the half-century mark — and only after six points in overtime.

"Now, it doesn't stop. Once he gets it, it's going to come naturally to him," Westbrook said. "He's a natural-born scorer."

Notes: Thunder reserve Lazar Hayward was out with a fractured left orbital floor after being poked in the eye late in Oklahoma City's win against Golden State on Friday. ... The Nuggets (103.4) and Thunder (101.6) are two of three teams averaging more than 100 points per game, trailing only Miami (103.7) in the NBA rankings. ... Lenny Wilkens, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Jack Sikma are among the 12 players with triple-doubles for the Seattle SuperSonics. Westbrook is the only one other than Ibaka to do it with the Thunder.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere