Thursday, November 20, 2014
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Improving Nuggets dump Thunder

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[November 20, 2014]  DENVER -- After an embarrassing home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers a week ago, Ty Lawson spoke up.

The Denver Nuggets' season was spiraling in the wrong direction, so the point guard told his teammates they had to change their defensive mindset.

"I became more vocal in the locker room," he said. "We were giving up too many things."

His words sunk in, and suddenly the Nuggets are trending upward after a 107-100 win over the depleted Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

Lawson led the way with 15 points and a season-high 15 assists. Forward Wilson Chandler scored a season-high 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had a key block down the stretch to help the Nuggets win their second straight and third in the past four.

Denver (4-7) has its first winning streak of the season.

"It's something to build on," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said, "as modest as it is."

Forward Serge Ibaka had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and guard Sebastian Telfair added 18 points off the bench for the Thunder, who lost their third in a row.

Both teams got off to poor starts this season for different reasons. The Thunder are without their two best players -- forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook -- and are struggling to replace their scoring and overall play. Oklahoma City (3-10) is leaning on its defense to stay in games.

One of the Thunder's three wins came against Denver three weeks ago, starting the Nuggets' six-game losing streak. Denver lost four times by double digits, culminating in a 17-point setback in which the Trail Blazers scored 84 points in the first half.

That led to fan grumblings about Shaw's job, but two wins on a three-game weekend road trip quieted the talk. Wednesday's game helped, too.

"I thought it was the best thing for us to be out on the road after the performance we had our last home game," Shaw said. "I thought our guys were pressing a little bit. The road was good to us."

The Nuggets, save for a bad quarter in New York on Sunday, were able to shore up their defense following Lawson's talk.

"Most good defensive teams make sure there's one thing they're not going to do, like get in the paint or threes, but we were trying to do it all," Lawson said. "I was like, 'Let's make sure they don't get 50 or 60 paint points.' We'll live and die with the three. Not too many times is a team going to beat you scoring 50 points or 60 points from three. If we just keep doing that, we're going to be good."

Denver outscored Oklahoma City 46-32 in the paint.

The Nuggets shot 48.8 percent from the floor against a stingy defense thanks to 15-of-23 shooting in the third quarter.

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"Defensively, it wasn't good for us tonight," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I know Denver is a very difficult team to guard. Their point guard is as fast as any guard in the league, and he was getting by our guy too easily and kicking out for open shots."

Denver, which led 54-49 at intermission, quickly went up by 15 behind Chandler and Lawson. Chandler had eight points and four rebounds in the period, and Lawson dished out six assists.

Oklahoma City subbed in its bench but couldn't slow down Denver. Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried celebrated his 25th birthday with a put-back dunk that made it 83-69, and forward Danilo Gallinari nailed a 3-pointer with a second left in the quarter to give Denver an 88-74 lead heading into the fourth.

"They collapsed our defense the whole game. They got deep penetration and took advantage of our mishaps," Thunder center Steven Adams said. "We weren't good enough in our coverage. That led to their inside scoring."

Center Timofey Mozgov, who scored 17 points, had two of his three blocks in the third quarter.

The margin grew to 16 in the first minute of the fourth before Oklahoma City rallied. The Thunder cut it to three on Ibaka's 3-pointer with 3:15 left, and guard Reggie Jackson missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it. Denver responded with threes by Chandler and guard Arron Afflalo, and Chandler's block on guard Anthony Morrow sealed the win.

NOTES: Oklahoma City G Reggie Jackson grew up in Colorado Springs. He played prep basketball at Palmer High School before moving on to Boston College. ... Nuggets F J.J. Hickson was dressed after sitting out Monday's win in Cleveland, though he did not play. Hickson, who is coming off ACL surgery in the spring, is restricted from playing in back-to-back games. ... The Thunder is fifth in the NBA in opponents' field-goal percentage. Oklahoma City is holding teams to 42.2 percent shooting. ... The Nuggets improved to 2-3 at home. Two seasons ago, Denver went 38-3 at home on its way to 57 overall wins.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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