OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 28 points, Russell Westbrook added 17 and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets 104-89 Friday night for their second win this week over their potential first-round playoff opponent.
The Thunder handed Denver its only home loss since the Carmelo Anthony trade on Tuesday night and now has the two biggest wins against the new-look Nuggets.
Oklahoma City came in sitting in fourth in the Western Conference, with Denver fifth, and should be feeling confident if the teams meet in the postseason next week.
Nene had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets and also got into a confrontation with the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins for the second time in as many games. Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton added 17 points apiece for Denver.
Durant scored 16 points in the third quarter to help Oklahoma City bump a three-point lead back up to a dozen. His free throws to finish the period started a 12-3 run, with James Harden’s 3-pointer pushing the advantage to 85-67 with 8:35 left.
After the Nuggets had pulled within 10, Durant converted a three-point play to start an 8-0 run that put the game away for Oklahoma City.
Perkins ended up with Nene nearly in a headlock after fouling him midway through the fourth quarter, and Nene responded by shoving Perkins to get out of it. Both continued to jaw at each other and got whistled for technical fouls.
A similar scene occurred in Denver three nights earlier, with the teams seemingly brewing up some bad blood in case they’re destined to play a best-of-seven series soon.
The Thunder have controlled the Nuggets when it mattered most in the final two regular-season meetings, pulling away in the second half for a 101-94 win on Tuesday and doing it again in the rematch.
Denver is 16-6 since trading away Anthony. The Thunder are 11-3 with Perkins, their big trade deadline acquisition, in the lineup.
Daequan Cook hit back-to-back 3-pointers — the first initially ruled a 2 before being overturned on replay — and he and Harden scored eight points apiece during a bench-fueled 20-4 run by Oklahoma City. Westbrook had a steal and a right-handed, fast-break dunk to finish it off and put the Thunder ahead 37-23 with 6:21 left before halftime.
The lead got as big as 16 after Harden’s driving layup before Denver mounted a comeback against Oklahoma City’s starters.
Felton and Gallinari scored the Nuggets’ final 17 points before halftime to trim the deficit to six, and Denver scored the first three points of the third quarter to pull to 48-45.
NOTES: The Thunder missed their first six shots and left a sellout crowd standing for more than 4 minutes, waiting for their first basket. It was the 13th straight sellout and the 34th of the season for Oklahoma City. … Denver committed just one foul in the first quarter and four in the first half. … G Arron Afflalo (hamstring) was out for the 11th time in the last 13 games. The Nuggets were also without F Chris Andersen (ankle) for the fourth straight game and C Timofey Mozgov (ankle, knee) for the second game in a row.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)