OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 41 points, Russell Westbrook added 31 and the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled out a 107-103 win against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The Thunder leaned heavily on their two All-Stars, who both scored their most points in the postseason.
Kendrick Perkins tipped in Westbrook’s missed jumper to put Oklahoma City up 102-101 with 1:06 left, as several Nuggets looked for it to be waved off as basket interference. Kenyon Martin then missed a jumper from the left wing before Westbrook struck to make it 104-101 with 22.4 seconds left.
Raymond Felton missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, and Oklahoma City closed it out at the foul line.
Nene led Denver with 22 points and eight rebounds, and Danilo Gallinari scored 18. Gallinari hit a jumper from the right side to give the Nuggets a 101-100 edge with 3:06 to play, but Denver didn’t connect on any of its final five shots down the stretch.
The Nuggets — without an All-Star after trading Carmelo Anthony away at the deadline — used a well-rounded effort but it wasn’t enough to overcome Oklahoma City’s top tandem.
With a one-point lead in the closing moments, Westbrook waited patiently deep on the left wing while Durant tried to fight his way open, but then took matters into his own hands. He darted to the left wing and hit a jumper to give the Thunder a 104-101 advantage and Denver couldn’t come up with a response.
The Thunder had taken control down the stretch in each of the teams’ two meetings in the final eight days of the regular season, and tried to do it again.
Durant hit three jumpers and the free throw that followed Raymond Felton’s technical foul during a 12-4 run, and Westbrook’s jumper from the left wing put Oklahoma City ahead 98-90 midway through the fourth. But this time, Denver had a response.
Felton stripped Westbrook to set up a three-point play by J.R. Smith on a fast break, and Nene followed with another three-point play off of a left-handed jam through Durant’s foul. Nene dunked again with his right hand to finish the 9-0 answer and put Denver up 99-98.
Durant and Gallinari then traded baskets before Westbrook’s two big ones.
Felton had 12 points, and Kenyon Martin and Ty Lawson scored 10 apiece for Denver.
Eric Maynor chipped in 12 points for Oklahoma City, which had no one else score more than five.
The Nuggets hit their first seven shots, and 10 of their first 12, to charge ahead 23-10 in the first 7 minutes. Nene had 10 quick points, including two dunks. After the first, he chirped at Kendrick Perkins under the basket. The second time, Perkins had words for Durant, who didn’t get in Nene’s way.
All that kept the Thunder in the game was a hefty advantage at the foul line. They scored half their 24 first-quarter points on free throws, while Denver missed its only attempt.
Durant and Westbrook scored the final seven points of the first half, with Westbrook swiping the ball away from a double-teamed Felton and zooming downcourt for a two-handed slam to get Oklahoma City within 60-59 at halftime.
Westbrook hit a 3-pointer and jumper to give the Thunder their first lead at 64-62 early in the third quarter, and neither team led by more than three in the period until the very end. Durant used a crossover move to get away from Wilson Chandler and hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, then set up Eric Maynor’s 3 from the opposite side to make it 86-82 Thunder heading into the fourth.
NOTES: Nene was out for 7 1/2 minutes after suffering a right knee contusion while bumping into Perkins in the opening minute of the second half. … Oklahoma City’s starting frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Perkins had no points in the first half. … The Thunder franchise’s last win in its first-round playoff opener was in 1998 against Minnesota. Oklahoma City lost Game 1 to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Seattle lost its first game in the 2005, 2002 and 2000 playoffs.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)