MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Durant couldn't forget his fourth-quarter performance in New Orleans.
So he took out his frustrations on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Durant tied a career-high with 47 points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds to lead his Oklahoma City Thunder to a 118-117 overtime win over the Wolves on Wednesday night at Target Center.
In the Thunder's 91-89 loss against the Hornets on Monday, Durant failed to score in the fourth quarter, missing all five of his shot attempts. Against the Wolves, Durant had 16 points in the fourth quarter, making six of nine shots. And the Thunder needed each one of them, as 12 of Durant's points in the final period of regulation either tied the game or put the Thunder up one in a thriller that saw 21 ties and 19 lead changes.
“Coming into this game, that's something I tried to put an emphasis ... trying to help my team in the fourth a little better and getting better shots,” said Durant, whose point total matched L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin for an NBA season high while also marking the third time this season he has scored at least 40 points.
Durant began to heat up in the third quarter.
After scoring just 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting in the first half, Durant netted 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the third period. He scored in transition and on pull-ups. He got to the free throw line and got into a rhythm from the 3-point line. Durant scored 12 of the Thunder's final 14 points in the third quarter, helping to turn a four-point deficit into a four-point advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Durant capped his scoring flurry with a 29-footer at the quarter buzzer, a low-percentage shot that looked pure the moment it left his hands.
Thunder guard Royal Ivey was so impressed, he said after the game that the morning headlines should read “video game.”
“I hope I don't ever take it for granted because he's pretty impressive,” said Nick Collison. “To be able to kind of carry us like that, we needed every one of those.”
Durant found success by reverting to an old style. Rather than spend the night putting the ball in Durant's hands and allowing him to initiate the offense — a strategy that has yet to yield many positive results — Thunder coach Scott Brooks reverted to running Durant off screens. And there wasn't a thing the Wolves could do about it, as only a few inches allowed Durant to catch and shoot with ease.
“We're starting to get him some better looks out of the offense so he's not having to create so much himself. And I think that's helping him,” Collison said.
Durant rescued the Thunder from what was threatening to be a bad loss marred by an inexcusable lack of energy and effort.
For 2 1/2 quarters, the Thunder (29-16) all but watched the Wolves (10-35) have their way. Minnesota led by three after the first quarter and held a 56-54 edge at halftime behind 50 percent shooting. As if the defense wasn't bad enough, the Thunder fumbled the ball away throughout the first 24 minutes, turning it over 10 times.
Oklahoma City finally buckled down in the third period, holding Minnesota to 39 percent shooting while Durant was transforming into the “Durantula” to save the sluggish offense.
“We had about three bad stretches of basketball,” Brooks said. “But we somehow managed to stick together and continue to play together.”
Durant's sidekicks did their part.
Jeff Green, like he's done several times this season, delivered a clutch play when he swished a runner over three Wolves with 4.3 seconds remaining in regulation. The bucket forced overtime when Kevin Love (31 points, 21 rebounds) missed a baseline hook that fell into Durant's hands just before time expired in regulation. And with the Thunder clinging to a tenuous two-point lead with 1:30 left to play, Thabo Sefolosha and Collison came up with back-to-back blocks inside the paint to temporarily preserve the lead.
Michael Beasley tied it at 116 with 46.3 seconds left, but Durant answered with what proved to be the game-winning, step-back 18-footer with 28.3 seconds remaining. Wolves guard Corey Brewer could have tied with a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds to go but missed the second foul shot, and Luke Ridnour was forced to double pump on a last-second 3-pointer that fell well short.
The final seconds trickled off the clock during the scrum for the rebound, and the Thunder moved to 4-0 in overtime and 17-6 in games decided by seven points or less.
“If it comes down (to the wire), we've been in situations like that before, so we have experience,” Durant said. “We're growing as a team and knowing what to do in those situations…We're going through this for a reason.”