So I figured that, extension or no extension, Carmelo Anthony is still a Nugget, and the rest of the team would extend themselves to fill in the gap while he’s away — and indeed, that’s the way the game unfolded early on, with Denver dominating the proceedings. The Thunder began fighting back in the second quarter; by the end of the third, they were up three, 88-85, and Kevin Durant had already knocked down 40 points. Kid Delicious was quieter in the fourth — he finished with 44 — but Oklahoma City held serve and then some, sending the Nuggets away with a 114-106 lump of coal.
Still, Denver didn’t give anything away. Chauncey Billups had a season-high 30 points, Nene had the night’s only double-double — 21 points, 12 rebounds — and Ty Lawson came up with 19 off the bench. Besides which, the Nuggets shot over 50 percent, which the Thunder didn’t. But they turned the ball over 17 times.
And tonight, OKC was taking care of the ball: they gave up only eight turnovers. Durant had five of them, but then he seemingly always had the ball. Jeff Green’s inner sharpshooter apparently had the night off, so James Harden took up the slack, putting up 21 points; between Harden and Durant, the Thunder, usually not a factor from beyond the arc, managed to hit six of 17 from international waters. More important, though, was forcible removal of the ball from Denver players: the Thunder pulled off 10 steals and blocked eight shots. And Nenad Krstić was back; he didn’t exactly keep Nene out of the lane, but then neither did anyone else.
Three more home games at the Expensive To Heat Arena: the Mavericks on Monday, the Nets on Wednesday, and the Hawks on Friday.