It's never a good idea to play 2-on-5 ball during the NBA playoffs, but that's essentially what Game 1 equated to for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.
The two-headed monster of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook outdueled the Nuggets' balanced attack for a 107-103 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,203 inside Oklahoma City Arena.
The Thunder's All-Star tag team combined for 72 points and 15 rebounds, which was enough to overcome five double-digits scorers for the Nuggets and eight players who had eight points or more.
Durant had 41 points and nine rebounds. Westbrook had 31 points, seven assists and six rebounds and converted a clutch free throw with 5.3 seconds left.
Their damage was spread over both halves. Durant had 25 second-half points, while Westbrook scored 21 in the first half.
“We will need to make some adjustments here,” Denver coach George Karl admitted afterward.
Durant and Westbrook finished with career playoff highs in points. Their playoff debuts came last season in an opening-round loss to the world champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Durant, who shot 35.0 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range against the Lakers, shot 13 for 22 (.591) from the field and 3 for 6 from 3-point range against the Nuggets.
Westbrook was 12 of 23 from the floor and 3 for 4 from 3-point range. The Thunder's three other starters shot a combined 3 for 13 (.231) for the game.
“Give them credit,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of his dynamic duo. “They stepped up and made big plays when they needed to.”
Reserve point guard Eric Maynor had 12 points and shot 5 for 7 from the field, including 2 for 3 from 3-point range. In the second half, Durant converted 9 for 13 shots from the field. The rest of the roster was 9 for 29 (.310).
Denver was led by center Nene, who had 22 points and eight rebound despite suffering a bruised right knee and leaving the game early in the third quarter. Danilo Gallinari added 18 points. Point guard Raymond Felton had 12 points and eight assists off the bench. Kenyon Martin had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Nuggets got off to a hot start, making their first eight shots and 15 of their first 21.
The Thunder trailed 33-24 after the first quarter and would have been in more serious trouble had it not outscored Denver 12-0 at the free-throw line.
OKC made its first nine shots of the second quarter to pull within 48-45 on Nick Collison's dunk halfway through the period.
The Nuggets extended their lead again, but sparked by the tremendous all-around play of Westbrook, the Thunder closed out the half with a 10-2 run to trail 60-59 at intermission.
OKC took its first lead of the game in the third quarter and was sparked by Durant, who had 14 points and went 3 for 3 from 3-point range in the period.
Denver battled back from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to regain the lead in a contest that featured nine ties and nine lead changes.
The Nuggets were hurt by poor free-throw shooting, converting 21 of 33 (.636).
Game 2 will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in OKC and will be televised on TNT and Fox Sports Oklahoma.