Jones, Ibaka lead Thunder past Nuggets

Oklahoma City, OK ( – The short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder
will face many tests without their two superstars over the next month.

They passed their first one with flying colors on Saturday.

A makeshift roster of just eight healthy players never trailed and held off a
late rally by the Denver Nuggets to come away with a 102-91 win.

One day after All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook underwent surgery on his
broken hand, the Thunder, already without reigning MVP Kevin Durant, saw a 26-
point lead dwindle to three in crunch time.

Serge Ibaka and Perry Jones each hit big 3-pointers down the stretch, however,
and both scored 23 points to lead Oklahoma City’s balanced attack.

Kendrick Perkins contributed 17 points, Steven Adams netted 13 and Lance
Thomas added 12 with eight rebounds for the Thunder, who were on the verge of
starting 0-3 for the first time since moving to Oklahoma City

Rest was not an issue for the Nuggets, who rolled to an easy win over the
Pistons on Wednesday. Ty Lawson netted 14 of his 25 points in the final
quarter, but it was too little, too late for the visitors.

Denver scored the first eight points of the fourth to pull within 76-64, and
an 11-0 run, capped by a Randy Foye layup, had the Nuggets as close a 88-85
with 2:53 remaining.

Ibaka answered with a 3-pointer, and after Lawson hit a step-back jumper,
Jones beat the shot clock with a miraculous turnaround 3 over Arron Afflalo.

Andre Roberson scored off the offensive glass to give the Thunder a 96-87 lead
with 1:27 to play, and the closest it got from there was seven.

Ibaka’s 3-pointer and jumper on back-to-back possessions had the Thunder up
12-3 just over three minutes in, and it was 29-17 at the end of 12 minutes.

The Nuggets made one field goal over the first six-plus minutes of the second
quarter, and the subsequent 14-2 run pushed the margin to 43-19.

Oklahoma City went into the locker room with a healthy 55-33 cushion, and it
stayed a double-digit game until Denver’s late comeback.

Game Notes

The Thunder franchise has not started 0-3 since the 2007-08 season, when the
then Sonics lost their first eight games … Afflalo scored 14 points for the
Nuggets, who committed 18 turnovers … Sebastian Telfair handed out a game-
high nine assists for the Thunder.