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News » NUGGETS 122, THUNDER 112


DENVER - Six players for the Denver Nuggets played their roles to perfection on Wednesday night, but it took just two to deliver the knockout punch against the Thunder.

Chauncey Billups and Linas Kleiza took turns toying with Oklahoma City in the second half and led the Nuggets to a 122-112 win in front of 16,536 inside the Pepsi Center.

The Nuggets got a team-high 31 points from Carmelo Anthony; a dominant 23-point, 10-rebound double-double from Nene Hilario; seven blocks from Chris Andersen; and 14 points off the bench from J.R. Smith.

But each time Oklahoma City made a push in the final 24 minutes, it was Billups or Kleiza who silenced the Thunder.

Billups erupted in the third quarter, scoring 16 of his 18 points and recording three of his nine assists in the period and snatching away any thoughts the Thunder had of an upset.

After Russell Westbrook made a 12-foot jumper to give Oklahoma City a 77-76 lead with 2:56 remaining in the third period, Billups put the Nuggets on his back. He scored all of Denver's points during an 11-2 run that put the home team ahead 87-79 with 40.6 seconds remaining in the quarter.

"That seems like Chauncey's pattern," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He's a very intelligent point guard. He was feeling the game out in the first half, and in the second half he took it upon himself to get more involved offensively."

Kleiza then used the fourth quarter to pick up where Billups left off in the third, making sure the work of his point guard didn't come undone. He scored 12 of his 17 points off the bench in the final frame. When the Thunder pulled within 95-94 with 9:09 left to play, Kleiza scored 10 of 12 Nuggets points over the next 3:02.

"He got loose in our pick-and-roll coverage and then hit a couple of big 3s," Brooks said. "And that's what he does. He comes in and scores points for that team."

The Thunder, despite playing with more offensive efficiency (47 percent shooting from the field) for the second game in as many nights, couldn't keep pace. Kevin Durant scored a team-high 31 points. Westbrook had 14 points and 11 assists. Jeff Green finished with 24 points, and Nenad Krstic had 17.

But with every miscue the Thunder made, Denver pounced, scoring 28 points off 16 Thunder turnovers.

"It's playoff Basketball," Green said. "They're getting prepared to get ready for the playoffs, and we just had to (kick) up our energy for the second half. We played well for the first. But that second half was what killed us. Our turnovers cost us a lot. They scored almost on every turnover we had."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 11, 2009


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