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OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook grabs key rebound as OKC defeats 76ers

When Kevin Durant misfired on the second free throw with 4.9 seconds remaining, Russell Westbrook snatched the ball to help the Thunder hold off Philadelphia 92-88.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 29, 2012

— It felt like everyone in the building assumed Kevin Durant would swish both free throws.

Fans inside the Wells Fargo Center had stormed up the aisles. Players on the court had fallen asleep.

Everyone, it seemed, figured Durant couldn't miss.

Everyone except for Russell Westbrook.

And when Durant did misfire on the second of two foul shots with 4.9 seconds remaining, Westbrook flew in from out of nowhere, like he had done all game, to snatch the rebound and help the Thunder snatch a 92-88 nail-biter over Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

“People tend to relax on free throws, especially in a game like that,” said Westbrook. “I just went to go get it and whoever was right there wasn't ready.”

After Durant failed to put the Thunder up three, Westbrook was fouled and made two free throws to give OKC its final four-point margin with 3.6 seconds. With no timeouts remaining, the Sixers were toast. They inbounded the ball from underneath their own basket, and guard Lou Williams could only take a harmless 33-foot heave that fell short and wouldn't have mattered even if it dropped.

“Russ had the biggest rebound of the game after my missed free throw,” Durant said.

Westbrook finished with a game- and season-high 13 rebounds. His last board also gave him a game- and season-high seven offensive rebounds.

Each one helped the Thunder overcome a poor night shooting (38.5 percent) and yet another bout with a bevy of turnovers (17) against the league's most stout defensive team. The Sixers entered the game leading the league in opponent points per game, allowing just 86.9.

“The kid is an amazing athlete,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He is dynamic. That last offensive rebound was huge. It was a big one. I don't know where he came from. He just jumps over bigs and finds a way to snatch it out of the air.”

Westbrook scored 22 points on 20 shots and had just four assists against seven turnovers. But he more than made up for it with his work on the glass, which helped the Thunder out-rebound the Sixers 56-39.

“I just tried to put myself in a position to get loose balls,” said Westbrook, whose career high in rebounds came against New Jersey on Dec. 1, 2010, when he grabbed 15. “It was a lot of balls getting tipped around and I just tried to get my hands on them.”

The Thunder improved its league-best record to 28-7 and bumped its winning streak to six games, one shy of the team's season-high.

For a while, it all looked in doubt as the Thunder clearly struggled with rust in the first game out after the All-Star break.

Though the Sixers played the night before in Detroit, the Thunder never could use its five days of rest to its advantage. Wednesday's box score: Thunder 92, 76ers 88

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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