Durant, Thunder surpass last season’s win total
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—After his latest scoring binge helped the Oklahoma City Thunder eclipse their victory total from all of last season, Kevin Durant(notes) said this franchise’s losing days are behind them.
And he’s not looking back.
Durant had 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Thunder to a 94-92 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Durant topped 30 for the 13th time in the last 16 games. Jeff Green(notes) added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder (24-18), who won just 23 games all of last season and only 20 in Durant’s rookie season in Seattle.
“Last year is in the rear view,” Durant said. “When you’re driving you don’t always look in the rearview mirror. We’ve got to prepare for this year, understand each game at a time and remember we had it tough last year and it’s getting better for us. We’ve got to stay humble, stay hungry and continue to work.”
Corey Brewer(notes) had 25 points, six assists and five steals, and Al Jefferson(notes) added 20 points and nine boards for the Timberwolves, who had a chance to tie or take the lead twice in the closing seconds.
Jefferson missed a tough jumper in the lane and Ramon Sessions(notes) stole the ensuing inbounds pass to give the Wolves one last shot. But Jonny Flynn’s(notes) long 3-pointer at the buzzer was just off the mark, ending the Wolves’ bid for their first three-game winning streak at home in more than a year.
“They probably have a great chance of making the playoffs this year in the tough Western Conference,” Flynn said. “You look at their story and you want to be like that.”
Now, thanks to Durant’s offensive brilliance and a defense that started the night ranked second in the NBA by allowing opponents to shoot just 43.6 percent, the Thunder find themselves in sixth place in the West and right in the thick of the playoff picture.
“They’re a team of the future,” Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said.
Rambis put Brewer on Durant for most of the night, hoping Brewer’s combination of height and quickness would be enough to handle one of the most dynamic young scorers in the game. It was, for about a quarter.
Brewer made Durant work for everything he got early, forcing him to go to the free throw line for most of his points. Durant missed three of his first five shots and committed three turnovers in the first 18 minutes before finishing the first half with a flourish.
He knocked down a 25-footer with Brewer’s hand right in his face, scored on a driving layup and threw down a dunk in transition in the final 2:30 of the second quarter and finished the half with 19 points.
“It’d be great to have somebody like that,” Rambis said.
Brewer did his best to answer Durant on the other end. He made five of his eight shots in the first half and scored 14 points to keep the Timberwolves close at 55-51.
With the Thunder clinging to an 88-86 lead late in the game, Durant scored six straight points, two pull-up jumpers and two free throws, to make it 94-86 with 2:14 to play, and Oklahoma City hung on the for the win.
“We’re not where we need to be and we understand that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re going to keep improving. Closing out games, we’re getting better because we’re in a lot of close games.”
The Timberwolves were a bit miffed after the game when officials Dick Bavetta, Kevin Fehr and Phil Robinson declined to look at the replay of an out-of-bounds call where Fehr awarded possession to the Thunder with under 13 seconds to go. Replays appeared to show the ball actually deflected off of Green’s ankle.
“They’re probably kicking themselves after they looked at it,” said Jefferson, who was directly involved in the play. “Mistakes are made. They’re not perfect. We’re not perfect. You can’t take it personal.”
Bavetta said procedure was followed.
“I asked Kevin Fehr, who was right on top of the play, are you absolutely certain about the call? And he said, ‘Yes I am absolutely certain about the call,”’ Bavetta said. “The guideline for going to replay is if there is uncertainty. So when the official making the call has absolute certainty, there’s no reason to go to the replay.”
NOTES: Wolves F Damien Wilkins(notes), nephew of former Hawks high flyer Dominique Wilkins, made his uncle proud with a posterizing dunk over Nenad Krstic(notes) in the third quarter. … The Thunder played their second straight game without F/C Nick Collison(notes) (concussion). He is day to day. … The Thunder also sent F D.J. White(notes) home for medical tests after he injured his hand in practice on Tuesday.