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Durant's 44 carry Thunder over Carmelo-less Nuggets

Dec 26, 2010 - 7:04 AM Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) - Kevin Durant poured in a season-high 44 points, and the Thunder stopped the short-handed Denver Nuggets, 114-106, at Oklahoma City Arena.

James Harden scored 21 and Russell Westbrook added 19 points for the Thunder, who posted their seventh victory in nine games. Durant, who was three points shy of a career-best, went 14-of-20 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range.

"We didn't force anything," Durant said. "They started to double a little bit in the fourth and I just tried to make the right basketball play. Guys were kicking the basketball and we were getting open shots. I think we did a great job of closing the paint up."

The Nuggets were without star forward Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game following the death of his sister. Anthony made the trip with his teammates to San Antonio for Wednesday's opener of a brief two-game road trip but left after receiving word that his sister, Michelle Anthony, died of a pre-existing medical condition in Baltimore.

Chauncey Billups had a season-high 30 points for the Nuggets, who have lost two in a row. Nene chipped in 21 points and 12 boards in defeat.

"We're just giving up too many points on the road, trying to outscore people," Nuggets coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets led 58-56 at the half and expanded the difference to six early in the third, but the Thunder used an 8-0 burst to move back in front. Jeff Green's three-point play capped the rally with 3:48 remaining for an 81-76 margin.

The back-and-forth play continued with the Thunder carrying an 88-85 edge to the fourth. They started the final period on an 8-1 push, finished by Eric Maynor's short jumper.

Billups hit a three-ball and Ty Lawson scored two buckets to help pull Denver within 96-93, but Westbrook stemmed the tide by hitting a layup at the midway point of the period and the Thunder held on by limiting the visitors to 37.5 percent (6-of-16) shooting in the last quarter.

Nene and Billups combined for 24 of Denver's 34 points in the opening quarter, allowing the visitors to grab an eight-point lead after 12 minutes. The Nuggets scored 11 in a row late in the quarter for a 10-point lead.

Denver led for most of the second quarter until Oklahoma City made a big push in the latter stages, grabbing a 52-51 edge following a three-point play from Westbrook with 3:28 remaining.

Game Notes

Thunder center Nenad Krstic returned to the starting lineup after missing seven games due to a sprained lower back. He had four points and eight rebounds...Green had 12 points, while Lawson ended with 19 and five assists.