AUBURN HILLS, Mich. â€” Perhaps the Thunder should consider reviving those contract negotiations with Jeff Green.
With two days remaining to iron out a deal, Oklahoma City might still be able to get him re-signed at good market value. Who knows what the price tag will skyrocket to should Green preserve his two-game pace and sustain the clutch standard he has officially set?
One day after management confirmed that Greenâ€™s contract extension talks have died, Green rescued the Thunder with a game-winning layup with 2.5 seconds remaining to lift Oklahoma City to a 105-104 victory over Detroit on Friday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Greenâ€™s heroics came after Kevin Durant, the face of the franchise who did receive an extension, split a pair of free throws that would have put the Thunder ahead by three with 14.1 seconds remaining. Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva capitalized by knocking down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Pistons its first lead of the second half with 7.5 seconds left to play.
â€œI was kicking myself,â€ Durant said about his miss at the line.
Durant, though, had a chance to atone for his uncharacteristic foul up at the foul line. But when Thabo Sefolosha inbounded the ball to Green, Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince overplayed Durant and prevented a clean pass off.
With the clock ticking, Green improvised. He put the ball on the floor and barreled his way past Jason Maxiell for the game-winner.
Ben Gordon, who had nearly stolen the victory for Detroit by scoring 14 fourth-quarter points on 4-for-6 shooting, then had a mental meltdown as he dribbled the final ticks off the clock near halfcourt without getting a shot off.
Green was mobbed by his teammates near the Thunderâ€™s bench. Durant, grinning from ear to ear, was the last to walk up and congratulate his pal.
â€œI owe him something,â€ Durant said.
It was the third game-clinching play Green has made in a Thunder uniform, joining his jumper off the glass at Golden State two seasons ago and his poster dunk and three-point play on Atlantaâ€™s Josh Smith last season that extended a two-point lead to five in the waning seconds.
â€œIt never gets old,â€ Green said.
In Wednesdayâ€™s season opener, Green also finished off Chicago with a timely 3-pointer that pushed a 10-point lead to 13 with 1:29 remaining.
â€œIâ€™m just trying to be aggressive and trying to at least get a foul,â€ Green said. â€œAll the ones, beside Golden State, were to the rim.â€
Most importantly for the Thunder is how a victory has been salvaged in each of the first two games despite awful offense and stretches of bad defense. The Thunder shot just 38.8 percent Friday and missed 13 of 15 3-pointers. Oddly enough, Green was just 1-for-8 from the 3-point line.
But for the second straight game, the Thunder buckled down defensively in the fourth quarter. Aside from allowing Gordonâ€™s hot streak, the Thunder reversed everything that allowed the Pistons to shoot 49.3 percent through the first three quarters. OKC held Detroit to 7-for-18 shooting and forced the Pistons into four turnovers.
Now, the Thunder is 2-0, and itâ€™s impossible to overstate how important gutting out these early, sometimes ugly, wins is for this ballclub.
â€œWe know we can win we donâ€™t shoot good,â€ Green said. â€œJust imagine if we shoot good and we play the defense that we play. We can play with a lot of teams.â€