PHILADELPHIA — 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. OKC's largest lead of the night was a mere seven, coming after an 8-0 first-quarter run that put the Thunder up 16-9 with 5:43 remaining. Philadelphia responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game, and, from there, the Sixers turned up the intensity and stood toe-to-toe with the Thunder.
After trailing by five at halftime, the Sixers outscored the Thunder 19-10 in the third quarter. The Thunder's offense bogged down when the Sixers made it more of a half-court game. OKC made just 2-of-20 shots in the period and scored a season-low 10 points in the quarter.
Despite that hideous third quarter, the Thunder trailed by just four going into the fourth quarter. And OKC took the court for that final period with an attitude — a much-needed defensive mindset.
The Thunder got deflections and steals and watched its defense lead to offense. The ball started moving more at the other end the Thunder slowly chipped away at an eight-point deficit.
“We have a team full of competitors,” Brooks said.
The final two minutes proved it.
After the Thunder tied the score at 85-all on a free throw by Durant, Westbrook kept another missed shot by Durant alive. When Durant missed again, Serge Ibaka crashed the board to recover the rebound and get fouled while going back up. Ibaka made two foul shots to give the Thunder its first lead since 55-53 with 8:59 remaining in the third quarter.
The Thunder then forced the Sixers to miss seven of their final eight shots and turn it over twice.
Ibaka intercepted a pass Williams intended for Elton Brand … Durant and James Harden trapped Williams and forced another turnover … Kendrick Perkins made an impressive close out on Sixers guard Jodie Meeks and stuffed his 3-point attempt back down as quickly as he got it up.
And, of course, there was that final fantastic rebound by Westbrook.
“That guy is a little pit bull,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “You have to play all 24 seconds of the clock with him, and I didn't think we did that. I thought we were lax at the end of clocks, and you can't do that with him.”