NBA Scores And More: Kevin Durant Leads Thunder Past Banged Up Mavericks

The Mavericks are still without Dirk Nowitzki, and the Thunder took advantage for a 99-95 win. In other action, the Kings blew out the Nuggets. (Seriously.)

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Thunder Vs. Mavericks: Kevin Durant Leads OKC Over Dallas, With Dirk Nowitzki Still Out

Kevin Durant had 28 points on 11-22 shooting as the electric-again Oklahoma City Thunder took a game from the currently dilapidated Dallas Mavericks 99-95 on Thursday. Dirk Nowitzki missed his sixth consecutive game with a knee sprain. His replacement at power forward, Shawn Marion, played excellent ball against the Thunder with 25 points on 12-17 shooting. But the depth issues stemming from Marion's ascension and Caron Butler's absence led to Brian Cardinal, age 33, getting 16 minutes.

Even the Mavericks, with excellent interior defense and a shotmaker like Jason Terry, can't survive 16 minutes of Brian Cardinal against good (maybe great) teams like the Thunder. That is to say the Mavericks can't survive without Dirk, which should (and could) go without saying.

That said, Dallas did keep it close. Both Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green had off-nights; Westbrook seemed to be poor fortune while Green was legitimately limited by Marion, once one of the league's very best defenders. Green ended up shooting 7-17, and Westbrook went 5-16.

But DeShawn Stevenson, Dallas' normal three-and-D two-guard who has been asked to play small forward since Butler went down -- DeShawn can't handle Durant. No one can really "handle" Durant, but DeShawn Stevenson can really not handle Durant.

Serge Ibaka went 6-6 from the floor, scoring 13 points to go with eight rebounds before fouling out 24 minutes in. Three of the buckets were on dunks, which is good considering Ibaka will be in the dunk contest. One was a putback. It was pretty sweet.

The Mavericks still have the seasonal tiebreaker over the Thunder, despite the loss. That could matter as the teams jockey for position atop the West. Dallas is currently No. 2 in the conference, three games ahead of the No. 5 Thunder.

Mavs Moneyball credits OKC's excellent work on the offensive glass; check out Welcome to Loud City for Thunder analysis.


Nuggets Vs. Kings: Tyreke Evans Outduels Carmelo Anthony As Denver Takes Ignominious Defeat

The Denver Nuggets suffered a second straight embarrassing loss on the West Coast, losing 122-102 to the Sacramento Kings. The defeat came a night after the L.A. Clippers soundly defeated Denver, a would-be contender that is starting to fall apart.

The Nuggets were thrashed by the ultra-young Kings all night, save for a run in the third quarter. Sacramento led by 14 at halftime, but Denver's defense tightened up to start the third and the Nuggets were able to tie the game at 79 with 3-1/2 minutes left in the period. The Kings responded with an unbelievable 12-0 run to go ahead for good. (I call the run unbelievable because these Kings don't make those kind of runs.)

The Kings ran the break beautifully all night, and Evans ended up with a season-high 12 assists, many in transition. He also scored a good portion of his game-high 27 points on the break or, more often, the secondary break. He shot 11-18 from the floor and had just one turnover. Fellow youngster DeMarcus Cousins had another solid performance, picking up 20 points on 7-12 shooting with six rebounds. Small forwards Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi went a combined 7-11 from downtown; that's really the biggest key for the Kings' offense most nights, whether the wings can hit shots. They did, and the Nuggets looked slow in chasing out on the perimeter.

The ignominious back-to-back defeats beg the question at how ready the Nuggets are to blow this up. Denver continues to affirm its interest in getting something for Carmelo Anthony, but until a trade actually goes down, the Nuggets just float along, winning half their games and ensuring a mediocre draft pick (at best). At the very least, more defeat like this won't help the Nuggets sell 'Melo. Desperation is a bad bidding tool.

The Kings are no longer the worst team in the league. At 8-25, Sacramento has passed the Cavaliers and is currently tied with the Wizards for No. 28 in the NBA.

Denver Stiffs is understandably disappointed. Sactown Royalty is understandably gleeful.

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