(Sports Network) - The elite of the Northwest Division and the Western
Conference jump it up Friday night when the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder
visit the Denver Nuggets.
Both teams head to the Pepsi Center with three-game winning streaks. The
Thunder just completed a perfect homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves,
Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets.
The Nuggets sandwiched a home win over the Los Angeles Lakers around road
victories in Charlotte and Portland.
The two teams split this season's two matchups with each team winning at home.
None of OKC's last three wins were close. The Thunder won by an average of 30
points, thanks to a 45-point blowout of the Hornets on Wednesday.
"We've had it the last couple games," coach Scott Brooks said. "It's fun to
see. It's a good brand of basketball. That's how we play. I like what we did
Kevin Durant racked up a triple-double in three quarters with 18 points, 11
rebounds and 10 assists. Russell Westbrook went 12-for-12 from the foul line
en route to 29 points and Serge Ibaka had 18 points and seven rebounds.
After four straight games allowing 100-plus points, the Thunder put the clamps
on the Bulls and Hornets. Granted, Chicago and New Orleans rank in the bottom-
third of the NBA in scoring, the two teams were held to 72 and 74 points,
The Nuggets, who trail the Thunder by six games, scored over 100 points in all
but five games since the calendar turned to 2013.
In their victory over the Blazers on Wednesday, the starting backcourt of
Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson was the difference. Iguodala matched a season-
high with 29 points, to go with eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
"I've been slowly but surely trying to get there," he said. "I thought it
would be around January where I would really start getting it. It took a
little longer than I thought. I've really been staying within myself and
trying not to force too much. It's been good that we've been winning through
it all. I'm just trying to continue to fit in more and more."
Lawson netted 30 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, where the Nuggets
overcame a three-point deficit to start the frame.
The Nuggets beat Portland without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari. He is
suffering from a bruised left thigh and his status for Friday is listed as
While the Thunder's defense has improved recently, the Nuggets' hasn't. OKC
leads the NBA in scoring and Denver is third, but the Nuggets have surrendered
no fewer than 90 points in their last 26 games.
The Thunder beat the Nuggets by 20 points (117-97) in Oklahoma City on Jan.
16. Four days later, Denver needed overtime to knock off the Thunder, 121-118,
at the Pepsi Center.
Oklahoma City has lost eight of its last 10 in Denver.
The Sports Network