Spurs, Thunder nail needed victories

AFP, DENVER, Colorado

Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - Page 20

The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, trying to reassert themselves in the NBA’s powerful Western Conference, gained needed victories on Tuesday.

The Spurs beat the Thunder in last season’s Western Conference finals en route to a fifth NBA title.

However, with the season arriving at its midway point, both find themselves jockeying for position.

French point guard Tony Parker, who has been slowed this season by a nagging hamstring injury, scored 18 points to lead six Spurs players in double figures as San Antonio pulled away for a 109-99 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Kawhi Leonard finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Tim Duncan added 16 points and Aron Baynes chipped in 15 for San Antonio, who have won four straight and six of seven overall.

The Nuggets, coming off a 43-point loss to Golden State on Monday, kept it close until San Antonio pulled away in the final period.

Leonard sank two three-point shots during an 11-2 scoring run to open the fourth quarter that gave the Spurs a 91-78 advantage.

Denver did not get closer than eight points the rest of the way.

In Miami, Oklahoma City’s reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant flirted with a triple-double and did not turn the ball over in more than 39 minutes on the floor as the Thunder moved over 0.500 for the first time this season with a 94-86 victory over the Heat.

Durant had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, leading the Thunder to their third straight win. He filled the stat sheet despite missing all eight of his attempts from free-throw range and had a scary moment in the fourth quarter when he appeared to be hurt in a fall, but said he did not expect any lingering problems.

Russell Westbrook had 19 points with 10 rebounds and six assists, and both Thunder stars had four steals.

“It’s great to be over 0.500,” Westbrook said with a chuckle after the team improved to 21-20. “We fought so hard to get ourselves in this position. I think we’re in a good spot as a team right now.”

The Thunder, who dealt with injuries to both Durant and Westbrook early in the season, lost in both of their prior chances to gain a winning record.