LOS ANGELES (dpa) – After a long climb, the Oklahoma City Thunder rose to a level it hasn’t reached all season.
Russell Westbrook had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Kevin Durant also netted 19 Tuesday, and the visiting Thunder moved above .500 with a 94-86 victory over the Miami Heat.
“They did a good job of taking our punches and throwing them back,” said reigning league most valuable Durant, who added eight rebounds and as many assists.
“Our shots weren’t falling but we stayed with it. We stayed together and made plays down the stretch to win.”
Hampered by injuries to Durant (broken foot) and Westbook (fractured hand) for a large chunk of the first half of the season, the resilient Thunder (21-20) poked its heads above the mediocrity level but there was no celebration.
Asked what it meant, “Nothing,” Durant said. “We’re not rejoicing that we’re over .500. We have to keep pushing.”
Reggie Jackson scored 16 points and fellow reserve Anthony Morrow added 12 for Oklahoma City, which forced 21 turnovers, leading to 22 points en route to a third straight win and fourth in the last five games.
“I thought the guys did a great job of doing what we do defensively,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We were getting into the passing lanes and we had good ball pressure.”
Dwyane Wade scored 18 points and Chris Bosh added 16 for struggling Miami (18-23), losers for the seventh time in the last 11 outings.
With neither team able to take control, the Thunder led 80-72 on Durant’s ferocious one-handed slam with nine minutes, 34 seconds left.
The Heat rallied and had three shots to square the contest – the last at 84-82 – on Wade’s basket with 3:36 left – but failed.
Instead, Westbrook led the Thunder on a late charge. After Jackson buried a three-pointer with 2:54 left, the speedy All-Star guard followed with a jumper and dunk off a steal to open a 91-82 cushion.
Following a Bosh free throw at the other end, Westbrook spotted Steven Adams for a dunk to seal the Thunder’s 18th win in the last 26 games.
– San Antonio Spurs 109, Denver Nuggets 99: Kawhi Leonard collected 17 points and 15 rebounds in his third game back after sitting out 15 with a hand injury, carrying the visiting Spurs over the Nuggets for a fourth straight win.
“French Flash” Tony Parker topped defending league champ San Antonio (27-16) with 18 points, and Tim Duncan added all 16 of his in the second half.
Kenneth Faried had 26 points with 14 rebounds, and Arron Afflalo netted 21 for the Nuggets (18-24), losers of four straight, including Tuesday’s 43-point bashing by league-best Golden State.
Ahead 80-76 entering the final frame, Leonard nailed a pair of triples around one from Boris Diaw during an 11-2 run, opening up 91-78 cushion with 9:18 left.
The Spurs never let the lead dip below eight the rest of the way, en route to their fifth straight win in the series.