Russell Westbrook sparks Thunder past Denver
BY JEFF LATZKE Associated Press
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1/17/13 at 6:24 AM
For more OKC Thunder stories.Original Print Headline: Westbrook sparks Thunder win
OKLAHOMA CITY - Not even halfway through the first quarter, Russell Westbrook had already provided a showcase of his All-Star array of talents.
Pushing the pace to earn free throws, getting inside for a layup, popping a mid-range jumper, he had done it all. And the Denver Nuggets were never able to answer.
Westbrook scored half of his 32 points in the opening quarter and the Oklahoma City Thunder went wire-to-wire for a 117-97 victory Wednesday night, snapping Denver's six-game winning streak.
"What can you do?" All-Star teammate Kevin Durant said. "He's shooting the jump shot. If you pressure him, then he goes to the rim. It's like a nightmare when he's making that jump shot.
"So, hopefully he continues to keep making it. ... These last few games, he's been really good at scoring the basketball and taking the pressure off everybody else."
Westbrook's monster first quarter followed a season-best 36 points in Oklahoma City's last game Monday night at Phoenix. And this time, he needed only three quarters to do his damage.
The Thunder pulled their starters with a 25-point edge heading into the fourth quarter. It was only the second wire-to-wire win of the season for Oklahoma City, which has a league-best 31-8 record.
Denver was riding its longest winning streak of the season, but needed overtime to beat Portland only a night earlier and never could match Oklahoma City's energy.
"There's always those three or four or five games a year that you can't get it going, and tonight we couldn't get it going," coach George Karl said. "And you're playing maybe the best team in basketball."
Durant and Kevin Martin each scored 20 points for the Thunder. Durant also matched his career best with five steals.
Kosta Koufos had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets, who have a 3-6 record this season in the second game of back-to-back sets.
"We knew these guys were coming on a back-to-back, playing overtime last night, so we just wanted to get into them and make them make quick decisions with the ball," Durant said.
Westbrook hit six of his first eight shots and had 16 points in the first 10 minutes, with the Thunder continuously pulling away. Oklahoma City scored the first seven points of the game and also had a pair of 8-0 spurts in the first quarter while getting out to a 34-18 lead.
"I come into the game confident, honestly, and I just come out and take the shots that's given to me," Westbrook said.
It wasn't until after Nick Collison's two-handed dunk stretched the advantage to 45-23 in the first three minutes of the second quarter before Karl finally spent a timeout. The Nuggets never got closer than 17 after that.
"We didn't have a good offensive game, we didn't have a good defensive game, we didn't have a good energy game. They seemed to be the hungry team from the very beginning," Karl said.
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka looks to shoot over Denver's Kenneth Faried during Wednesday's game in Oklahoma City. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World