The Minnesota Timberwolves threw everything they had at Kevin Durant.
They put hands in his face. They bodied him on the block. They knocked him down in the paint.
It was almost enough. Almost.
Durant had career highs of 47 points and 18 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 31-point, 21-rebound night from Kevin Love to beat the Timberwolves, 118-117, in overtime on Wednesday night.
Jeff Green had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who beat Minnesota for the eighth straight time. But it was Durant who carried the load, scoring 16 straight points for the Thunder in the fourth quarter of a thrilling back-and-forth game.
”All I can say is Durant is incredible,” Love said, a glazed look in his eyes. ”He’s incredible.”
Durant’s 47 points tied Clippers star Blake Griffin for the highest total in the NBA this season and came from every spot on the floor. He hit four three-pointers, 13 of 14 free throws and drilled a 15-foot, step-back jumper over Corey Brewer with 28 seconds left in overtime that held up as the game winner.
”I hope I don’t ever take it for granted because that’s pretty impressive,” Thunder center Nick Collison said. ”To be able to kind of carry us like that, we needed every one of those.”
Michael Beasley had 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Timberwolves, who had a chance to win the game in the final 7 seconds. But Luke Ridnour rushed a three-pointer after a missed free throw by Brewer and the Thunder tracked down the loose ball to seal it.
The Northwest Division-leading Thunder had to work for this one against a team that has lost 18 straight division games. The game featured eight lead changes in the final 3-1/2 minutes of regulation, then was tied twice more in overtime.
It was another tough loss for Love and the Timberwolves, who had a chance to win it in regulation. But Love’s short hook shot went halfway down before rattling out, sending the game to overtime.
”When it left my hand, I said, ‘That thing’s in,”’ Love said. ”I was about to run back to the locker room right away. That thing went in and out.”
Durant got off to a bit of a slow start while being pestered by Brewer, Minnesota’s best perimeter defender. He missed nine of his first 14 shots, but offset that by getting to the free throw line 10 times.
When Brewer picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, Durant flourished with the extra space. He scored eight points in the final 53 seconds of the period, including a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Durant struck a pose as the shot swished through, leaving his shooting hand up for posterity and then putting his hands on his hips as if to say, ”Don’t worry guys, I got this.” He had 16 points and eight rebounds in a dominating third quarter that gave Oklahoma City a four-point lead heading into the fourth.
”I was a little upset with myself with the first half, the shots I was missing,” Durant said. ”The second half I was able to get to where I wanted to, get to the free throw line. I think my rebounding sparked me a little bit. So I was able to get some rebounds and push it up and get some easy points.”
The young Wolves didn’t go away, though, taking a 97-94 lead on a three-pointer by Love with 4:30 to play.
But each time the Wolves took a lead down the stretch, Durant came up with a huge shot to answer. First a three-pointer to tie it, then two free throws, then a silky smooth jumper from the wing for good measure.
Love brought the crowd to its feet when he blew by Green for a dunk, but Durant responded again, blowing by Wes Johnson for a dunk, converting the three-point play for a 104-103 lead.
”It’s impossible to stop him,” Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver said.
Russell Westbrook had an off night for the Thunder, scoring 16 points on 7-for-19 shooting with six turnovers. But his driving hoop with 26 seconds left gave Oklahoma City a 108-107 lead.
Ridnour scored on a twisting layup on the other end to take back the lead, but the 92 percent free throw shooter missed a freebie and Green scored to tie it at 110 with 4 seconds to go in regulation.
The Timberwolves (10-35) look to Oklahoma City and see hope. Four years ago the Thunder won 20 games in their final season in Seattle. Three years ago they went 23-59. But they landed Durant, Green and Westbrook in two drafts and now are one of the up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference.
The Thunder won 50 games last season and have positioned themselves as a legitimate challenger to the Lakers and Spurs, two teams that aren’t getting any younger.
”They are exactly where we were,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”We were in a lot of close games. The year we won 23 games, that’s what the learning is all about. You’re learning. You’re not losing. Unfortunately, the record says you lost the game, but they’re learning how to win and they will figure it out.”
NOTES: Durant missed a technical free throw in the fourth quarter, snapping a string of 45 straight makes for him at the line. … In the second quarter, Love and Darko Milicic were fighting for the same rebound, and Love relented. He then looked at the bench and winked, his charity done for the day. … Love had 21 points and 11 rebounds in the second half, the 22nd time he had a double-double in one half. Only 10 players in the NBA have 21 or more double-doubles for an entire game this season.