Thunder 117, Nuggets 97

Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Denver Nuggets were riding their longest winning streak of the season when they strolled into Oklahoma City on Wednesday. They were expected to provide a battle for the top team in the Western Conference.
Instead, the Nuggets got a lesson in just how big the gap is between them and the Thunder. Oklahoma City dismantled Denver 117-97 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With its own five-game winning streak in hand, Oklahoma City now hits the road for 14 days on its longest road trip of the season.
Denver (24-17) saw its run of wins end at six games, and the Nuggets dropped eight games behind Oklahoma City (31-8) in the Northwest Division standings.
Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 32 points on 12-for-20 shooting, his second consecutive 30-plus point outing. Kevin Durant had a quiet 20 points to go along with five steals and four assists. Neither played in the fourth quarter. Kevin Martin came off the Thunder bench to chip in 20 points.
Kosta Koufos paced the Nuggets with 16 points and nine rebounds. Reserve center JaVale McGee contributed 15 points and three blocked shots for Denver.
The Thunder started the night off slicing up the Nuggets defense. Denver looked like a team playing the second night of back-to-back games, which it was, and Oklahoma City took advantage with ball movement and dribble and isolation plays.
Westbrook led the charge, scoring 16 points in to give Oklahoma City a 34-18 advantage after one quarter.
As efficient as the Thunder's offense was, the Nuggets were just as lackluster. Koufos was the only Denver player who had any energy whatsoever. The rest of the squad sleepwalked through the entire first half, and the Nuggets trailed 67-47 at halftime.
Denver never got the deficit below 17 in second half, as the Oklahoma City bench of Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Liggins, Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb kept the defense rolling. All four players have seen time on the franchise's D-League team, the Tulsa 66ers.
NOTES: After missing the past two games with chest contusions, Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka was back in the starting lineup. He finished with five points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. The Thunder have had the same starting lineup for 37 of their 39 contests this season. ... Denver forward Wilson Chandler sat out the game for precautionary reasons, according to coach George Karl. ... In its overtime win over Portland on Tuesday, Denver dished out 31 assists. The Nuggets have won 34 consecutive games when they've hit the 30-assist mark, including going 5-0 this season. ... Despite playing less than 20 minutes a game and coming off the Denver bench, McGee is ninth in the NBA in blocked shots at 1.9 per game. However, he is second in the league in blocks per 48 minutes at 4.86. Only Milwaukee's Larry Sanders averages more with 6.26. ... Oklahoma City is on the road for the next six games. The Thunder will not return home until Jan. 31 against Memphis. Despite that, coach Scott Brooks doesn't envision benching any of his players to rest them. "That hasn't even crossed my mind with this group," Brooks said. "When I take Kevin (Durant) off the floor for four or five minutes, he thinks I'm benching him. I can't even imagine having to tell him I'm sitting him out a half. We'd probably have a fistfight."

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