OKLAHOMA CITY -- Before the season started, a poll was taken among NBA general managers on which player they would want to have the ball in their hands in the final seconds to win or tie a game. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant finished first with almost 40 percent of the votes.
On Sunday, with his team needing him to come through again, Durant showed why he earned that type of respect around the league, leading the Thunder to a 106-105 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With 18 seconds left in regulation, Washington led 94-93. With the entire arena screaming "Defense," Wizards guard Bradley Beal cruised to the basket for an easy layup, giving the Wizards a three-point advantage.
Durant wasn't fazed. On the ensuing possession, he pulled up from the top of the key and drained a game-tying 3-pointer with Washington forward Trevor Ariza in his face. The game went to overtime, and Durant hit the tying and winning free throws with 40 seconds to go. He finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
Durant's game-tying 3 at the end of regulation was his 12th career game-tying shot in the last 24 seconds of a game, the best total in the NBA since the start of the 2007-08 season.
"You never feel like it's over when you got a guy named Kevin Durant on the other side," Wizards guard John Wall said.
Regarding the late fourth-quarter sequence, Durant said, "I just tried to read the play. I just needed a little bit of space to get it off. If he had pressured me, I would have tried to get to the rim for two. That was the plan. I seen a opening, and coach trusted me with a the shot, no matter what. Make or miss. I was fortunate enough to get that one to go in."
Beal put the Wizards up 103-102 with 1:50 left in overtime with a 3-pointer from the corner. Oklahoma City (5-1) turned the ball over, and Washington center Marcin Gortat made them pay with a layup.
Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka closed the gap to one point with a putback of guard Reggie Jackson's missed layup. Ariza tried to responded with a jumper, but Durant came up with the blocked shot and was fouled going for a layup. He hit both free throws to put Oklahoma City up 106-105.
Washington (2-4) got the ball with four seconds left, trailing by one. It was enough time for Wall to get up a shot, but his attempt was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
The Thunder won for the first time ever winning when trailing by 12 or more points in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City also erased a 10-point deficit in the last four minutes of regulation.
"There's nothing wrong with our defense," an exasperated Washington coach Randy Whitman said. "They made shots. That's what it boils down to in this league sometimes. We were right there. Trevor Ariza was right there. Give Durant credit."
With 3:19 left in the fourth quarter, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and Wizards center Nene were ejected from the game after receiving double technicals during a scuffle that saw Westbrook push Nene.
The altercation seemed to spur on the Thunder (5-1). Without Nene in the lane, Ibaka hit a turnaround jumper with 2:10 left to cut the Wizards' lead to 92-86.
Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb knocked down a 3-pointer, and Ibaka threw down a monster dunk to cut the home team's deficit to 92-91 with 1:10 remaining.
Beal led the Wizards with 34 points, and he shot 6-for-8 from 3-point range. Ariza added 15 points and five rebounds. Gortat and reserve forward Al Harrington each scored 11 points.
Ibaka scored 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Westbrook added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Westbrook would say nothing about the altercation that led to his ejection, but he liked the fight he saw from his teammates.
"We never gave up," Westbrook said. "Did a good job of running our stuff and getting the shots we wanted."
Nene had a different perspective on night.
"It's hard to swallow this kind of loss," he said, "but I know that we will review the game and we will learn a lot of things from this loss. They played harder than us, and that's why they won."
NOTES: Thunder F Nick Collison sat out due to a hip contusion. He is day-to-day. ... Oklahoma City's reserves outscored Washington's reserves 26-21 and posted a 17-10 rebounding edge. Heading into Sunday's game, the Thunder bench ranked third in the league in field-goal percentage and opposing field-goal percentage. ... The Wizards are averaging 16 turnovers per game, but they gave the ball away only 13 times Sunday. "I think our assist-to-turnover ratio has been very high," Washington coach Randy Whitman said. "That's something, through the preseason and start of the season, we wanted to focus on our turnovers and not turn the ball over at a high rate." ... Whitman knows the benefits of having a fast, aggressive point guard such as John Wall, so it is no surprise he is impressed with what PG Russell Westbrook does for the Thunder. "He's a big part of this team," Whitman said. "They saw that last year when they lost him. I'm sure getting him back is going to solidify what this team is capable of doing. He presents a challenge for everybody."