The game-winning play that lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder to an eventual 117-107 victory over Minnesota on Monday night was a stroke of pure luck.
But because Jeff Green has developed such a reputation for canning clutch shots, the most significant moment in the sequence might have gone unnoticed to the 17,653 inside Oklahoma City Arena and the scores of others watching at home.
Green, for the second time this season, buried a game-saving bucket when his 3-pointer from the top of the arc splashed through the net to give the Thunder a 107-105 lead with 54.7 seconds remaining. Minutes earlier, the Thunder had squandered an 18-point second half lead and jeopardized what should have been a cakewalk win over a 4-11 Wolves team.
The near collapse came in the same fashion as the close calls in the previous two victories. And the play that most clearly depicted how the Thunder almost melted down this time was the isolation run for Kevin Durant just before Green's timely 3-pointer.
With just over one minute left to play, Durant caught the ball on the right wing and began sizing up his defender. But he had two other sets of eyes zeroed in on him before he even started his attack. The Wolves forced Durant into a contested 11-foot fadeaway that chipped the rim and, fortunately, wound up in the hands of Thabo Sefolosha on the weak side. Sefolosha quickly fired a pass to a wide open Green for the dagger.
â€œMy eyes lit up,â€ Green said.
And they should have.
It was about the only open shot the Thunder saw the entire fourth quarter â€” and that has become the theme throughout the past three contests.
After a 7-for-17 shooting performance in the final period Monday, the Thunder has now m made just 14 of 52 field goals in the fourth quarter over the past three games. The team has escaped with wins, but a growing cause for concern is how the offense has bogged down when it matters most. Everything is ending in a jump shot, as evidenced by 27 of the Thunder's 38 misses in the fourth quarter the last three games coming from12 feet and beyond.