For one night, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook prove George Karl's theory is wrong
George Karl likes the mission he's accepted. The Nuggets coach is out to prove that you don't need superstars to win big in the NBA.
For much of Sunday night, Karl was building a case.
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Then the old you-need-superstars theory rose up. Rose up big.
The amazing tale of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reached its zenith Sunday night as the Thunder bounced Karl's Nuggets 124-118 in overtime.
Durant's ascension to basketball royalty? Westbrook's rise to superstardom? Neither could be disputed after one of the wildest games in Oklahoma City's NBA history.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 91 points on 35 of 57 shooting. Durant totaled 51 points, his first golden scoring game as a pro. Cool Hand Russ had 40 points.
Here's what kind of night they had. Serge Ibaka had a monster triple double – 14 points, 15 rebounds, 11 blocked shots – and was relegated to third billing.
Here's what kind of night they had. Karl said “to have a great player take a game from you like that is heart-wrenching,” and I have no idea which great player he meant. Durant, I suppose, for his five points in the final 30 seconds of regulation after the Nuggets took a 111-106 lead.
The Thunder's James Harden called the game “unbelievable.” Westbrook termed it “epic.”
NBA record-keepers were too busy to give the game a proper description. They were busy telling us that it's the first time in NBA history a team produced a 50-point scorer, a 40-point scorer and a triple-double, all in the same game.
A bunch of other cool mileposts were reached, some involving names like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, speaking of superstar tandems.
“They were both on fire,” Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said of his duo. “Great performance by both of 'em.”
In the last six minutes of regulation, after Denver had taken a 97-90 lead, plus the five minutes of overtime, Durant made six of nine shots. Westbrook made six of eight.
Anything less, and the Thunder loses this game. The Nuggets, remade from the team that was remade last February, are working on the fly again, thanks to injuries to center Nene Hilario, forward Danilo Gallinari and sharp sub Rudy Fernandez. All were missing Sunday, Denver had lost nine of its previous 12 games and still the Nuggets looked like their blend of depth, speed and oddball lineups would spring the upset.
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