Basketball: No canter as Turk powers up

Kanter gets 21pts off bench while Westbrook, Durant star as Thunder roll past Nuggets

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter celebrating after a play against the Denver Nuggets.
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter celebrating after a play against the Denver Nuggets.PHOTO: REUTERS

OKLAHOMA CITY • Enes Kanter does not have a reputation for being physical. In his second NBA season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he has become known more as a finesse centre who can score around the basket.

However, the 23-year-old Turk has been trying to disprove that theory this National Basketball Association (NBA) season.

After being manhandled on Christmas Day by the Chicago Bulls, he may have made his best argument on Sunday in helping lead the Thunder to a 122-112 victory over the Denver Nuggets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Kanter came off the bench to score 21 points, grab eight rebounds and totally frustrate the Nuggets' coaching staff.

"You can't let Kanter, who just manhandled us, come off the bench and get 21 (points) and eight (total rebounds), and five offensive rebounds," Denver coach Michael Malone said.

"I think Kanter was the MVP (Most Valuable Player) tonight. He dominated us. Every time we play this team, he dominates us.

"We just have to get in the weight room and get a little stronger."

Russell Westbrook scored 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting. The 27-year-old point guard also collected 12 assists and nine rebounds.

Star forward Kevin Durant added 26 points and 10 assists. Forward Serge Ibaka scored 19 points as the Thunder improved to a 21-10 win-loss record.

Westbrook and Durant also became the first duo to have at least 25 points and 10 assists in regulation since John Stockton and Karl Malone in 1996.

Forward Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Guard Will Barton came off the bench to score 19 points, while centre Joffrey Lauvergne netted 18 points as Denver dropped to 12-19.

"I do think we're capable of being better," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

"I think we've shown that. I think the concentration, the focus and just the will to defend at the level I think we're capable of defending has to be an area we continue to grow and get better at."

The Thunder tallied 27 assists and improved to 8-1 when they have at least 25 assists in a game.

"That's the formula. We have to start looking at that," Durant said.

"We penetrate and we looked to pass tonight. Guys were passing up open shots. Normally when we do that we tend to be a good team."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'No canter as Turk powers up'. Print Edition | Subscribe