The Thunder lost 104-103 at home on Tuesday night after getting outscored 13-1 in the final 2½ minutes against Houston. It was OKC's third loss in its last six starts.
But when it was suggested before Thursday night's game at the Pepsi Center that OKC might be losing its grip as the best team in the Western Conference, Denver coach George Karl rolled his eyes.
“You could say the same thing about the Miami Heat,” Karl said. “They've lost two in a row. I still think Oklahoma City has proven to me that they're the best team in the West now. It's a short trial period. We usually have 60 games at this time in the season. We've got 40 games in now.
“I love their Big Three (of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden). I love how (coach) Scotty (Brooks) handles 'em. It'll be interesting (in the postseason). … We kind of like playing 'em. We enjoyed the playoff series last year, and we enjoyed the last game we played against them.”
The Thunder then went out and posted a 103-90 victory against Denver for its ninth win against the Nuggets in the last 11 meetings.
Serge Ibaka had 11 blocked shots against Denver in the season's previous meeting on Feb. 19, which was a 124-118 Thunder victory.
Asked if there was anything his team would try to do to curtail Ibaka's blocks, Karl said: “I don't think so. Our philosophy is (to attack the basket offensively). That's what we do. I know he got 11 blocks, but we still got 70 (actually 72) points in the paint that game. Would I sacrifice 10 blocked shots for 70 in the paint? I'd take that right now.
“I think our guys understand when they're trying to score against two or three guys, the simple play is what you have to go to. You can't make a tough, complicated play in the NBA, unless you're a special, special player. And even then, I think if there's two guys on you, the game says find the open man.”
Saddled with foul trouble, Ibaka had three blocks on Thursday.
The Thunder turned 16 Denver turnovers into 24 points. OKC had just five second-half turnovers and finished with 13. … The Thunder has beaten the Nuggets nine of the last 10 meetings, but Denver had won 12 of the previous 13. … Denver had 72 points in the paint in this year's previous meeting. On Thursday, the Nuggets had 52 points in the paint. … OKC had 22 assists, its fourth straight game with 20-plus. … The Thunder made 12 of 25 (. 480) from 3-point range and 24 of 55 (. 436) from 2-point range.
The Thunder's next two games will be at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but both will start 90 minutes later than usual thanks to ESPN.
Tipoffs will be at 8:30 p.m. when OKC hosts San Antonio on Friday and Portland on Sunday.
The Devon Energy KD35 Ball, an inaugural fundraiser benefiting the newly formed Kevin Durant Family Foundation, will be held March 31 at the Skirvin Hotel. The event is designed to launch a fundraising effort that will support the Foundation's charitable giving plans.
Guided by Durant and his mother, Wanda Pratt, the foundation's vision is to “play forward” Durant's own priorities of helping children and families to succeed. Donations to the foundation will support after-school and summer programs, single parents and education. The foundation will also support Durant's plans for expanding his holiday giving activities for children.
The KD35 Ball will feature a dinner, dance and entertainment by Grammy-winning hip-hop violinist, Miri Ben-Ari. The silent and live auctions, presented by Riverwind Casino, will offer attendees the chance to support the foundation while providing donors with a chance to obtain unique experience packages, sports memorabilia, and more.
“It didn't surprise me when Kevin mentioned to me he wanted to set up a family foundation, because he understands the importance of giving support to others,” Pratt said in a statement. “I've been proud of him since the day he was born, and I'm glad to help him in this latest endeavor to enrich the lives of others.”
A limited number of corporate sponsorships and tables are still available. For more information call (405) 418-3870 or visit KD35Ball.com.