Oklahoma City, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - 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.
On a day when 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.
"A lot of our guys had never been in this situation," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's valuable experience for all of us."
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.
"We didn't execute the way we wanted to," Lawson said of the slow start. "We didn't come to play."
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.