<
>

Carmelo Anthony, in win, has 4 points on 6 shots: 'Cool with that'

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder needed a spark on Monday, and as it so often does, it came in the form of Russell Westbrook, with 16 of his 38 points coming in the fourth quarter in a 95-94 win over the Denver Nuggets.

But it came with unbalanced shot distribution, particularly among the Thunder's Big Three. Westbrook attempted 28 shots, Paul George took 13 shots and Carmelo Anthony had 6 shots, the fewest he has had in a game since 2013. Anthony finished with four points, the fewest he has scored in a game since 2012.

"I'm good with that, if we win. I'm cool with that, man," Anthony said of his shot total. "[Westbrook] had it going, and any time he has it going, we just gotta space it out, play off of him, let him work. The ball will find us. As far as the shots go, there's going to be nights like that. I think that's something we have to accept. It's different, but we have to accept that. But tonight, he had it going, and we followed his lead."

Westbrook ignited the Thunder in the fourth with 10 consecutive points, and he carried it through to splitting a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining to seal a much-needed win as OKC got back to .500.

"He led us tonight," Anthony said. "He led us to this victory. Especially offensively. Put the team on his back offensively."

Anthony has repeatedly talked this season about "sacrifice" as he adjusts to playing in a complementary offensive role. Against the Nuggets, Anthony took only two shots in the second half, missing both, including a wide-open spot-up 3-pointer in the fourth.

"A lot of times, my man is not leaving me," Anthony said. "Opposing teams, coaches' defensive schemes is telling them to always keep a body on me. ... As a result of that, me being a decoy opens it up for a lot of people."

Anthony went almost 10 game minutes between shots in the second half.

"Those are the most challenging ones," Anthony said of getting a shot when he hasn't taken one in a while. "I think in order for us to be successful, you have to be ready for those moments. Because just don't know when those opportunities are going to come. You have to mentally stay in the game, and you have to prepare yourself for when those times come."

It was a sensational game from Westbrook, who peppered the Nuggets from all over the floor, finding the midrange jumper he has oddly struggled with for most of this season. Westbrook hit 16 of his 28 shots, his first game with above 50 percent shooting since Nov. 11.

"If any one of us has the hot hand, they gotta keep going," George said. "Russ definitely had the hot hand and we were fine, we were fine with him taking the game over. He had the hot hand, and we were confident in the shots, and he was getting great looks. You can't really be mad about the looks he got. Wide-open looks and layups. We're livin' and we're on his back with that."

George had an off night shooting the ball, scoring eight points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field. Outside of Westbrook, the only other Thunder player scoring in double figures was Alex Abrines with 11 points.

"The good thing about it is, there's hot hands over here and there's guys that can put the ball in the hole," George said. "That's a difference in my career of not having that pressure."

The Thunder have won seven of their past 10 games, but they have done it largely by winning close games and without a marked improvement on the offensive end. Only three times in the month of December have they cracked 100 points in regulation, a strange thing for a team with as much offensive firepower as OKC.

"The ball has gotta move, and we have to generate better shots," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "We can't iso our way to being a great team offensively."