Nuggets Vs. Thunder: Kevin Durant Pushes Lead For NBA Scoring Title, Denver Pushes Lead For No. 6 Seed

April 25, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

The Denver Nuggets won 106-101 and kept control of the No. 6 seed in the West, while Kevin Durant led all scorers with 32 points, which means Kobe Bryant needs to score 38 points or more on Thursday to take the NBA scoring title away from Durant.

The last time the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets played at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Kevin Durant scored a career-high 51 points, Russell Westbrook added 40 points and Serge Ibaka put together a 14-point, 15-rebound, 11-block triple-double as the Oklahoma City Thunder knocked off the Denver Nuggets 124-118 in OT. They couldn't quite match the insanity of that game in their head-to-head rematch on Wednesday night, and it was at least in part because the incentives have changed for OKC since then. Denver won 106-101, but nearly everyone left the arena in a good mood anyways.

The Thunder were already locked into the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, while the Nuggets were fighting to avoid OKC in the first round by hanging on to the sixth slot at the expense of the Dallas Mavericks. OKC even held the NBA Finals tiebreaker over the Miami Heat by virtue of a better cross-conference record going into the contest, so the only motivation was to build a cushion for Kevin Durant over Kobe Bryant in the NBA scoring title race. Durant led all scorers with 32 points on 12-23 shooting and now Kobe needs to score 38 points or more on Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings in an otherwise meaningless game for the Lakers (who are already locked into the No. 3 seed).

As for the Nuggets, they repaid the oddity of that 51-40-triple-double game back on Feb. 19 with a lesser brand of quirkiness. Denver shot inferior percentages from the field (44.4 vs. 49.4), beyond the arc (34.8 vs. 41.7) and from the free throw line (60 vs. 86.7), but it still pulled out a road victory over one of the top teams in the NBA. It had a lot to do with good ball protection -- the Nuggets had just 10 turnovers, while OKC had 18 -- and some gritty offensive rebounding by rookie big man Kenneth Faried.

The No. 22 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft ran the court enthusiasm, fought hard for every inch of rebounding position and even sprinkled in a couple first-quarter jumpers on his way to a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double. He also sparked a 17-11 advantage on the offensive glass by grabbing six of his own, which helped the Nuggets overcome the shooting disparities across the board. Even so, Thunder TV play-by-play man Brian Davis still had it exactly correct when he noted that Faried "shoots free throws like he doesn't have opposable thumbs." He finished the game 1-7 from the line, which was the only blemish on in his box score section.

Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka combined for 77 points on 55.8 percent shooting (29-52 FGs), but they were the only Thunder players to score in double figures. Meanwhile, the Nuggets countered with seven players at or above that same threshold. Ty Lawson (25), Arron Afflalo (15), Danilo Gallinari (14), Faried (13), Al Harrington (10), Corey Brewer (10) and Javale McGee (10) spread the scoring load well and only Afflalo and Lawson back-loaded their effort for the second half. That allowed Denver to build a 64-58 lead at the half, and Lawson's late burst of nine fourth-quarter points helped them reclaim the lead after a late surge from OKC.

With the Denver victory, Utah is locked into the No. 8 seed and the Nuggets will hold onto the No. 6 slot in the West unless they lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Mavericks win on Thursday. As noted above, Kevin Durant will be the NBA scoring champion for the 2011-12 season unless Kobe Bryant scores 38 or more points against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night. In other news, James Harden was cleared by doctors to resume play but sat out anyways, a tightrope walker in the halftime show fell off the rope and injured his leg and Durant threw down this emphatic dunk over JaVale McGee:

For more on the Thunder, head over to Welcome to Loud City. Nuggets news and analysis is available at Denver Stiffs.

For all of Wednesday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.