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Thunder top Nuggets, end skid

Jan 7, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A barrage of Westbrook three-point hay-makers and another triple-double fires Oklahoma City to their first win of the 2017 calendar year with a 121-106 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night. It was Oklahoma City’s second time beating Denver after a three-game losing streak this season.

The Thunder are now 22-16 on the season and firmly entrenched in a heated playoff battle with L.A, Utah, and Memphis. All teams are separated by two games.

Russell Westbrook scored his 17th triple-double of the season in the fourth quarter, giving him Westbrook had 32 points, 17 rebounds, and 11 assists on the night. Oklahoma City is 32-3 over the last two seasons when Westbrook has a triple-double.

After an abysmal road trip for Westbrook beyond the three-point line, he’s been hot ever since. He nailed 8-of-15 against Houston and tonight against the Nuggets, Westbrook was 7-of-11.

“Obviously, Russ started hitting pull-up 3s from 30 feet and there’s not a lot you can do with that,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.

“Just try to stay on balance and concentrate on making the shot,” Westbrook said on how he has been so hot lately.

Oklahoma City were tied with Denver at halftime, 60-all.

The streaking three-point shooting helped propel Oklahoma City to a comfortable margin of victory when Westbrook nailed four of his seven three-pointers in a 2:20 window in the fourth quarter. An eight-point game swelled to

An eight-point game exploded into a 121-106 Thunder blowout over Denver, courtesy of four Westbrook 3-pointers in a 2-minute, 20-second span. Denver had pulled with 99-91 with 6:56 left in the fourth, but the MVP candidate went bananas.

Back-to-back pull up 3s from Westbrook put Oklahoma City up 105-94. A Jerami Grant lay up was met with two more Westbrook Thunder Money Balls and the Thunder blew their lead out to 114-96 with 4:17 left in the game.

Steven Adams scored 16 points and six rebounds, Victor Oladipo added 15 points. Cameron Payne finally made his season debut, scoring eight points, including two 3s, and dishing out two assists.

Oklahoma City’s 36 three-pointers taken were a season high. Oklahoma City was 12-of-36 from deep, 33 percent.

The Thunder’s 11 blocks are a season high. Previously, it was nine against Minnesota on Nov. 5, 2016.

Oklahoma City will travel to Chicago on Monday with a showdown with the Bulls at the United Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Defend the three: C

Despite Denver being 7-of-15 through the first three quarters from deep, the Thunder’s defense went into lockdown mode, holding the Nuggets to 2-of-9 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. Denver was 0-of-3 in the final five minutes of the game from deep.

Take care of the ball: A+

Oklahoma City only turned it over 10 times tonight. Those 10 turnovers are the second lowest this season. Oklahoma City had nine turnovers as their season’s best on Nov. 23 against Sacramento. Westbrook had five of them, so that bodes well for the rest of the team.

Hey Bench, show up: B

The bench scored 36 points on 14-of-26 shooting. That’s a little bit better than they fared against Houston and Milwaukee. The bench is imperative to the Thunder’s success. With Cameron Payne back now the Thunder hopefully can find some stability. Semaj Christon and Anthony Morrow found themselves the odd players out with the return of Payne.

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