Nuggets beat Thunder 106-101 to avoid No. 8 seed
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Denver Nuggets grabbed control of where they'll start the NBA playoffs.
Kevin Durant can't say the same about his hold on the league scoring title.
Ty Lawson scored 25 points, Kenneth Faried added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and the Nuggets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 106-101 on Wednesday night to ensure they won't be the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Another win and Denver will be the sixth seed and face the Los Angeles Lakers to start the postseason, after starting the month clinging to the last playoff spot in the West.
"You do this in the month of April and a lot of things and a lot of pressure and a lot of stress have been on you, I think that it shows that our guys have a pretty big heart and have some good character," coach George Karl said.
Durant scored 32 points to extend his tenuous lead in the NBA scoring race, leaving Kobe Bryant in need of 38 points in his season finale Thursday night against Sacramento to claim his third scoring title and prevent Durant from becoming the seventh player to win three in a row.
Durant is averaging 28 points, and Bryant 27.9.
LeBron James, who has sat out two of Miami's last three games to rest, would need to score 83 in his finale to have a chance.
"I probably won't watch. If I don't win the scoring title or MVP or whatever, it doesn't mean that I didn't have a good year by my standards," Durant said.
"To think back on everything I've done this season, I've gotten better. I've improved in every area I wanted to improve in. I scored a few points but I think as a defender and as a facilitator, I got better."
Durant said he considered it probably his best NBA season yet.
"If I don't win any awards, that's cool with me. I just want to grow as a player and hopefully they start to come later in my career," he said.
The Thunder had little to gain except momentum in their finale, and had rested Durant and the other starters in the fourth quarter of a close game against Sacramento a night earlier. Oklahoma City held on to win 118-110.
This time, Durant returned with just over 8 minutes left after Denver had scored eight straight points to go up 88-86 following Lawson's driving layup. Durant had scored only 25 points by then — meaning Bryant would have needed only 32 to win the title.
Just after returning, Durant tied the game with a two-handed dunk off an alley-oop from Westbrook.
But Lawson's free throw with 4:11 remaining put Denver up 96-95, and the Nuggets wouldn't trail again.
Durant negated a possession with Oklahoma City trailing 100-99 when he was called for an offensive foul. Faried grabbed Arron Afflalo's missed shot and dunked it with two hands before Russell Westbrook missed a 3-point attempt for the tie.
Corey Brewer then got around Derek Fisher and banked in a critical 18-footer as the shot clock expired to bump the lead to 104-99. The Thunder had one last chance to tie, but Fisher missed a 3-pointer from the left wing with 9 seconds left.
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