Published : 2012-03-16 19:43
Updated : 2012-03-16 19:43
DENVER (AP) ― Kevin Durant scored 24 points, Russell Westbrook had 23 and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the short-handed Denver Nuggets 103-90 on Thursday night.
James Harden scored 18 off the bench for the Thunder, who bounced back from a loss to Houston at home Monday night.
Andre Miller had 17 to lead the Nuggets, who played the game while a trade sending Nene to Washington for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf was finalized.
Denver signed Nene to a new five-year, $67 million contract in December. He was averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in an injury-plagued season. But the recent play of rookie forward Kenneth Faried made Nene expendable.
The Nuggets, who are in the thick of the playoff chase again this season, are a team without a superstar. Instead, coach George Karl relies on his superior depth to wear teams down and McGee figures to help in that regard.
Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said the team plans to waive Turiaf.
Without Nene, the Nuggets didn’t have enough to stay with the Thunder in the second half Thursday.
Trailing by one, Durant asserted himself to start the third quarter. He scored nine points to help the Thunder surge past the cold-shooting Nuggets. His fast-break dunk with 4:08 left in the third gave Oklahoma City a 68-57 lead.
Harden followed with a dunk and Westbrook drained a 3-pointer to put the Thunder ahead 73-59 before Denver cut the deficit to eight late in the period.
A 3-pointer by Daequan Cook, his third of the game, made it 78-65 heading into the fourth.
Suns 91, Clippers 87
Thunder 103, Nuggets 90
Jazz 111, Timberwolves 105
Wizards 99, Hornets 89
Mavericks 101, Bobcats 96
Nick Collison scored all six of his points early in the final period and Harden hit a long 3-pointer to push the lead to 90-72 with 7:04 left.
The Thunder took a 14-point lead early in the second quarter on the strength of hot shooting. Oklahoma City hit 57 percent of its shots in the first quarter.
Down 44-32 midway through the period, Denver rallied. Danilo Gallinari hit two 3-pointers to spur a 19-3 run that gave Denver a 51-47 lead late in the first half. Westbrook hit three free throws in the final 46 seconds to pull the Thunder to within 51-50 at the break.