Thunder-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

The NBA's hottest team isn't just winning. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been completely running by the competition.

The Thunder will look to extend the longest active win streak in the NBA to seven games when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Oklahoma City (19-4), which has won 14 of its previous 15, has been excelling primarily with speed and athleticism on both ends of the floor. The Thunder are averaging 17.8 fast break points, one of the best totals in the league, with stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way.

Durant leads the NBA in scoring at 28.5 points per game, and he's done his best work while attacking the basket, with 95 of his 206 field goals coming at or around the rim.

Westbrook is averaging 21.0 points and has been creating opportunities to open the floor with a team-leading 40 steals.

"It just gets us easy baskets," Durant told the team's official website about their up-tempo style. "Once you start to hit layups and get dunks, it opens the flood gates a little bit."

Against the Magic on Sunday, the Thunder ran out to 27 fast-break points and scored 50 in the paint. They were a bit sluggish in the fourth quarter, however, allowing Orlando to rally from a 16-point deficit before holding on to win 101-98.

"We were able to get started there, but you have to be able to play 48 minutes," said Durant, who had 28 points and nine rebounds. "(On Sunday) we had some tough stretches but we just kept fighting."

If the Nuggets are going to slow the Thunder, they'll need a better defensive performance than the last time these teams met. Durant scored 38 points and Westbrook added 30 in Oklahoma City's 115-113 home victory on Nov. 18.

Five Denver players scored in double figures in that one, led by Ty Lawson's 29, but the Nuggets allowed the Thunder to shoot 13 for 27 from 3-point range.

The Nuggets (14-9) have been playing well at home of late, winning seven of their last eight in Denver. Still, coach Brian Shaw knows his team's level of play needs to rise against the Thunder.

"I told them that if we want any chance winning against Oklahoma City, we're going to have to do a lot better in every area to even have a chance to win that game," Shaw said.

The team has received a spark from Nate Robinson, who is averaging 14.7 points since Nov. 25 despite not starting a single game. While he's always been fearless on the offensive end despite his 5-foot-9 stature, Robinson has also improved on defense.

In the team's last game, a 102-93 victory against New Orleans on Sunday, Robinson had two blocked shots. It marked only the fourth time in the guard's nine-year career that he has recorded more than one block in a game.

"I told the guards to watch out, I'm blocking shots," Robinson joked. "I just really try to take pride in my defense."

What to Read Next