Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both recorded double-doubles to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets, 110-104, on the road on Tuesday night to clinch their fifth straight win.
Durant led all scorers with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Westbrook contributed 27 points and 12 assists. Enes Kanter had 25 points and eight rebounds off the bench. His late offensive boards were crucial when the Thunder struggled to shoot down the stretch.
Danilo Gallinari stunned the Thunder with 27 points. Reserve Joffrey Lauvergne did not miss a single shot and had 12 points.
It was an entertaining and fierce matchup. It seemed the Thunder would finally had the the game in their pocket when Durant hit Westbrook with an alley-oop with 1:39 left. The connection gave the Thunder a nine-point lead. The home team weren't planning to let it go, however. Mudiay completed a circus layup and drew the foul from Kanter. The Nuggets pulled off hack-an-Adams while Mudiay converted from the line and Steven Adams missed both. Westbrook then committed a silly foul on Darrell Arthur and Arthur made the Thunder pay with two free points.
Denver had this 5-0 run in a span of three seconds to trim Thunder’s lead to 106-102, but that was the closest they could get. Kanter was able to grab the offensive board off Durant’s miss before he and Durant sealed the deal from the line.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
The game featured some of the explosive battles the Thunder hadn't encountered in a while.
Gallinari had his highlights when he knocked down step-backs and dunks under Durant’s watch. Durant, on the other hand, revenged Gallinari with a turn-around jumper while drawing the foul. He would go on to complete an and-one play.
Kenneth Faried and Lauvergne made some buzz in the paint, thanks to Denver’s ball movement. Thunder sometimes got trapped in Nuggets’ screens and Nuggets were able to get easy baskets. Kanter offered Thunder's response. He took advantage of his mid-ranger jumpers and was able to keep the Thunder in pace at the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the dynamic duo resting on the bench.
Cameron Payne and Mudiay, while shouldering different responsibilities on their teams, shared one common attribute: they are both willing to make extra passes to find better looks. The two lottery picks reminded me of the traditional definition of guards in that sense. They showed aggressiveness but both suffered shooting slumps on with Payne missing all his nine attempts and Mudiay recording a 3-of-7 performance from the line.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder win?
The Thunder did not panic when their turnovers handed Denver early-game leads and when shooting woes prevented them from pulling away. Instead, they composed themselves on the defensive end. They were able to contain Gallinari to just seven points in the second half.
In the collision between the league's second (Thunder) and third (Nuggets) best offensive rebounding teams, the Thunder had a 16-12 edge. That mitigated Thunder's 6-of-28 pain from behind the arc. Some offensive boards happened in the fourth quarter, which keyed Thunder's strong finish.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant. He has scored 20+ in 28 straight games.
Thunder Down Under: Enes Kanter. His offensive boards were the best remedy for Thunder's clangs.
Thunder Blunder: Cameron Payne. He threw nothing but bricks. (He did have four rebounds, six assists and four steals,tho).
Thunder Plunderer: Danilo Gallinari. He evolved into Denver's Kevin Durant.
Next game: vs Charlotte Hornets on Jan.20 @ 7PM CDT