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Wed, Dec 8, 2010 - 8:00 PM ET
Game Recap
 

Thunder 111, Timberwolves 103

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have learned how to close out tight games.

Finishing is a skill the young Minnesota Timberwolves are still working on.

Durant scored 30 points, including 20 in the second half, and grabbed 11 rebounds and Oklahoma City came from 19 points down to beat Minnesota 111-103 on Wednesday night.

Russell Westbrook added 25 points and eight assists as the Thunder recovered from their worst shooting performance of the season with one of their best.

Thabo Sefolosha had 13 points for Oklahoma City, which is 12-2 this season in games decided by eight points or fewer.

''We've been through a lot,'' Durant said. ''We've lost games down the stretch, won games down the stretch. We've won big, we've lost big. So, we've been through a lot and we've learned a lot in those times. We were able to come out here and get a good win.''

Kevin Love posted his eighth straight double-double with 22 points and 21 rebounds for Minnesota, giving him five of the NBA's 10 20-20 efforts this season.

Michael Beasley scored 26 points, but went 1 for 5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, as the Timberwolves lost for the ninth time in 10 games.

Love and Beasley went a combined 3 for 18 from the field in the fourth quarter, adding to another frustrating finish.

In contrast to Oklahoma City's dominance in close contests, Minnesota is 1-8 in games decided by eight points or fewer, leading to Love and Beasley afterward in the locker room trying to list the close games they should have won.

''We were very upset,'' Love said. ''Guys are pretty good about not accepting losing and I think that's going to add more hunger to our team to keep getting better.''

The Thunder shot a season-low 35.4 percent from the field in Monday's loss at Chicago, forcing Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks to try to search for answers.

The experiment included sitting Durant and forward Jeff Green for a large portion of the third quarter.

The Thunder didn't need any changes Wednesday. They stuck with what has worked all season, namely letting Westbrook and Durant lead the way,

''We are growing into a good team, not only physically are guys are getting better, but mentally,'' Brooks said. ''The experiences that they've gone through, not only this year, but last season. It helps. We're not going to win every close game, but we know that we have a chance to win games.

''We're not hoping to win games. We know we have the recipe. That is to get stops and get a good shot. No matter who takes it, as long as it's a good shot, and we get stops.''

Minnesota used a 40-point first quarter, its largest quarter of the season, to take a 40-22 lead.

But from there, Oklahoma City slowly chipped away.

The Timberwolves have scored 37, 36 and 40 points, respectively, in the first quarter in their past three games. However, just as they did Monday in a 121-114 loss in New York, the lead slipped away.

''I didn't think so at first, but in all honesty it's going to take a lot of practice,'' Beasley said about learning to win close games. ''We're a young team. Everybody knows that. We've got to stop using that as an excuse. We've got to find a way to grind it out.''

A 14-2 second-quarter run brought the Thunder within two, but Minnesota responded with a 15-6 run of its own.

Oklahoma City finally tied the game when Durant hit a 3-pointer to make it 84-all, spinning away from the shot at halfcourt and clapping his hands as he went back on defense.

The Timberwolves regained the lead on a jumper by Sebastian Telfair, but Durant responded again.

Durant had a soaring dunk down the lane and was fouled for a three-point play and the Thunder's first lead.

Minnesota closed to 104-103, but Durant sealed the win with another 3 with just over a minute remaining.

''We really still don't have a leader on the team, a go-to guy, that calming force that takes control of a situation,'' Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said. ''We don't have that yet. That's Durant for them. He calms it down.''

Oklahoma City shot 51.9 percent against a Minnesota defense that was missing center Darko Milicic, who sat out with a bruised right quadriceps. The Timberwolves were also without forward Anthony Tolliver, who helped guard Durant during the Thunder's comeback victory against Minnesota in Oklahoma City on Nov. 22.

NOTES: Minnesota sent PG Jonny Flynn to Sioux Falls of the D-League for a second rehab assignment. Flynn, who has not played this season due to left hip surgery, is expected to play in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday with Sioux Falls. He could return when the Timberwolves open a West Coast trip starting Dec. 14 at Golden State. ... Love reached the 15-rebound mark for the eighth straight game. It's the longest such streak since Detroit's Ben Wallace had 15 or more rebounds in 14 consecutive games in 2003. ... Oklahoma City C Serge Ibaka had 10 points and a career-high eight blocks. Six of his blocks came in the fourth quarter. ... Rookie C Cole Aldrich, a Twin Cities native, was inactive for his first trip back to Minnesota with Oklahoma City. Aldrich was recalled from Tulsa of the D-League on Monday.

Tagged: Timberwolves, Thunder, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love

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