DENVER — On the eve of Sports Illustrated's NBA Preview hitting the newsstands, none of the magazine's cover boys even stepped on the court during the Thunder's 130-115 exhibition loss Tuesday night against Denver.Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic made the cover of the popular publication, accompanied with the headline "THUNDER BALL." Durant is pictured front and center, with Sefolosha and Krstic flanking him in the background. Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green are not on the cover, but the Thunder's starting five is spread across two pages inside. Sefolosha and Krstic have Durant to thank for making the cover. "Thabo and Nenad, people don't really get to talk about them too much for some odd reason, so it was good to have them on there with me," Durant said. "They're guys we have to have on this team, so I wanted everybody to know how important they are to us and how great of teammates they are. I was happy to have a chance to voice my opinion and I'm glad Sports Illustrated put them on the cover with me." Durant said he spoke with SI officials and told them if they didn't put Sefolosha and Krstic on the cover then they wouldn't be allowed to use Durant on the cover, either. "Basically, I had to say it like that," Durant confirmed. "Everybody knows about Jeff and Russell and James (Harden), but not too many people know about Nenad and Thabo and they're a big part of this team." Green was the only regular to start against the Nuggets, finishing a game-high 29 points before a crowd of 13,549 inside the Pepsi Center. "We battled," Green said. "We stuck to our stuff, ran our stuff and I think that was the biggest thing for tonight." Joining Green as starters were James Harden, Byron Mullens, Eric Maynor and D.J. White. Off the bench came Daequan Cook, Elijah Millsap, Royal Ivey, Morris Peterson and Jerome Dyson. The makeshift lineup bears no resemblance to the nine-player rotation coach Scott Brooks will use during the regular season. Millsap and Dyson presumably are bound for the NBA Development League. Brooks shook his head while searching for something he liked with Tuesday's result. "It wasn't a pretty game for us," Brooks said. "I liked the fact we competed offensively. We did move the ball around pretty good ... We were playing so many different lineups. Smalls were playing at the big spots. We were a little confused, but it wasn't the players' fault. They were never in this position all of training camp. "We're a defensive team and we didn't compete defensively tonight." Expecting a good defensive effort from such an odd mix of players might have been expecting too much against one of the league's most explosive teams. "You want to expect it (good defense) and you talk about it," Brooks said, "but we had a lot of different guys in there playing, but they still know our system. Twos (shooting guards) were playing the fours (power forwards). They never worked on that in practices, nor will they ever." Harden finished with 14 points on one field goal and 12 free throws. White had a game-high 13 rebounds and 12 points. Mullens added 14 points and eight rebounds. "I liked Byron," Brooks said. "I thought Byron was very active. He was around the basket and that's what we've been stressing with him. He has to impact a game around the basket. Offensively, he's so consistent. D.J. is so consistent. He brings effort. He's a great teammate. He hasn't gotten a lot of playing time, but he's coachable and everybody likes him. You cheer for a guy like that." Maynor had six assists and two steals in 21 minutes, trying to direct traffic with a group that never had played side-by-side before in such unique combinations. "You just try to go with the flow," Maynor said. "The main thing of it is you've got to play hard." Brooks didn't start Durant and Westbrook against Denver so he could give the duo a much-deserved rest in the Thunder's back-to-back road trip. Durant and Westbrook played ball for two straight months as members of Team USA, which won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Asked if Durant and Westbrook understood his reasoning for the break, Brooks smiled and said, "No, not at all. They want to play. There are times they don't understand they need a rest during a game, either. But I like that. I like people with a competitive nature, people who feel that if they're not out there they let the team down. They've earned this (rest). I kind of know what they both do." The Thunder was competitive early and jumped out to a 13-3 lead. The Nuggets tied the score at the first-quarter buzzer on a 40-footer from J.R. Smith. Denver buried 13 of 29 3-pointers, led by reserve guard J.R. Smith going 5 for 10 and finishing with 21 points in 23 minutes. "We got a little happy making 3s, but we were making them," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "It is not my favorite way to win, but the game was a little lop-sided in offensive and defensive energy." Denver forward Carmelo Anthony, who for months has been rumored to be headed elsewhere in a trade, had 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds. "I am just trying to get it in everybody's mind that we start now," Anthony said. "We did some things good. We did some things we need to work on." As for Durant sitting out, Anthony said. ""I love playing against him. He is a competitor. I know he is going to compete. We will have many more battles to come."