Kanter is Thunder's ace

Oklahoma City's Enes Kanter (right) taking a shot over Denver's Kenneth Faried at the Pepsi Centre. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 110-104.
Oklahoma City's Enes Kanter (right) taking a shot over Denver's Kenneth Faried at the Pepsi Centre. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 110-104.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Westbrook & Durant claim double-doubles but it's his big night that surprises Nuggets

DENVER • The Denver Nuggets knew what to expect from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but Enes Kanter proved to be the difference for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Westbrook and Durant each had a double-double, Kanter scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and the Thunder beat the Nuggets 110-104 in the National Basketball Association on Tuesday.

"Enes did a really good job tonight," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of the centre.

"He was really active on the glass, he got a lot of offensive rebounds, he kept possessions alive, he scored, he did a lot of really good things."

Westbrook finished with 27 points and 12 assists but fell short of his third straight triple-double. The guard has five this season and 24 in his career.

Durant had 30 points and 12 rebounds to help Oklahoma City claim their fifth straight victory.

His performance at the Pepsi Centre extended his scoring streak - the forward has now scored 20 points or more in every game since returning from a hamstring injury in late November.

Forward Danilo Gallinari led Denver (16-26) with 27 points and forward Kenneth Faried had 17 points and 15 rebounds but could not overcome Kanter's big night.

"That guy gets 25 and eight (rebounds), four offensive rebounds and some key plays and he does it on 10-of-14 shooting," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

"You know that Durant and Westbrook are going to get theirs, but when you allow a third scorer to get in the game, it makes it nearly impossible to beat that team," he added.

Durant and Westbrook had double-doubles before the end of the third quarter. The Thunder (31-12) trailed by five midway through the period but led 84-79 entering the fourth.

They tried to pull away early in the fourth but Denver got within three and had a chance to cut the deficit to one. Kanter, however, hit a fast-break dunk and a lay-up to make it 90-83.

Denver did close within three on two free throws by forward Will Barton but a free throw by Kanter, a three-point play from Durant and a lay-up by Kanter made it 96-97 with 5min 8sec left.

Kanter had two of his four offensive rebounds in the fourth.

"My job is just going out there and helping my team-mates, get them open shots and fight for offensive rebounds," said the 23-year-old.

Denver had a chance to make it a one-possession game in the final minute but Westbrook stole a pass underneath and Kanter hit two free throws to stretch the lead to six.

"They just wanted it more than us," Nuggets guard Will Barton said.

"They beat us on the offensive glass and were really being aggressive."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'KANTER IS THUNDER'S ACE'. Print Edition | Subscribe