Durant hits go-ahead score in Thunder win
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant is starting to form a collection of game-winning shots.
For the latest addition, the lanky forward hit a go-ahead bank shot with 14.2 seconds remaining and the NBA-leading Oklahoma City Thunder overcame career performances by Monta Ellis and David Lee to beat the Golden State Warriors 119-116 on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think he called bank,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
The NBA’s two-time scoring leader has shook up defenders every which way this season and is making a strong case for his first MVP award. Durant also had a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Dallas on Dec. 29 and a dunk with 2.9 seconds left in an overtime victory Monday night at Portland.
“It’s one of those things where you shoot it and you’re like, `Aw, that’s a terrible shot,'” Durant said of his game-winner. “When it went in, I was kind of surprised.”
He might’ve been the only one.
Durant finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Russell Westbrook added 31 points and seven rebounds to give Oklahoma City its fourth win in five games. After rallying for a thrilling comeback at Portland a night earlier, the Thunder had to sweat out another frantic finish.
Ellis scored a career-high 48 points, and Lee had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double. Ellis and Brandon Rush both missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds to tie or take the lead.
“We have to break that cycle” Ellis said. “The games we should win, we’ve got to start winning. And the games like this, we should go out and compete and give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Warriors had every opportunity for a stunning upset.
Ellis pulled up just outside the paint and floated a runner while getting fouled by Westbrook, bringing the announced crowd of 17,971 mostly basketball-starved Bay Area fans roaring to their feet. He completed the three-point play to give Golden State a 112-108 lead with 3:53 remaining.
Daequan Cook followed with a 3-pointer, Westbrook hit a long jumper and Durant had a powerful two-hand slam to put Oklahoma City back in front 115-112 in an instant.
After Dorell Wright made one of two free throws, Durant missed a contested 3-pointer. The ball found Ellis’ hands, and the tattoo-tattered guard never gave it back.
Ellis darted to the basket off a pick-and-roll with Lee, threw his body into center Serge Ibaka and shielded the ball for a right-handed layup that started another three-point play. Ellis made the free throw to put Golden State ahead with 22.3 seconds to play.
Then, Durant simply showed his best.
After missing a finger roll through a crowd of defenders, Durant got a second chance when the ball trickled out of bounds off Golden State. He didn’t take long to redeem himself, coming off a screen and banking in an 18-footer off the glass with 14.2 seconds left.
Ellis missed a 3-pointer on the other end, Westbrook followed with two free throws and Golden State had one last chance to send it to overtime. But Ellis inbounded the ball on the final play, and Rush missed a 3-pointer in the corner at the final buzzer.
Ellis finished 18 for 29 from the field and was 9 of 10 on free throws. He also had seven rebounds and two assists — clearly not enough against an Oklahoma City team that’s plowing through the Western Conference.
“Our goal going into the game is to hold Monta Ellis to 50 and he only had 48 so we accomplished two things,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, sarcastically.
The West Coast swing of the Thunder’s long road stretch came full circle.
A trip that began with a 120-109 victory at Golden State on Jan. 27 hit one of its more difficult stretches. After a 111-107 comeback victory in overtime a night earlier at Portland, Oklahoma City struggled early to find its rhythm.
The Warriors sprinted out to an 8-0 lead in the first 1:58 of the game as Ellis set the tone with his shoot-first-and-shoot-often mode. The Warriors dynamic shooting guard started the game 8 for 10 from the floor and often finished in acrobatic fashion.
The Thunder put together patches of strong play but never could pull away.
Oklahoma City clamped down on defense — if only for a moment — to overpower Golden State, which shot 66.7 percent in the opening quarter. Durant stole an off-balance pass from Ellis and handed off to James Harden for a layup to highlight an 11-3 run that put the Thunder ahead 53-43 late in the second.
The break did little to slow Golden State’s undersized shooting guard.
Or anybody, really.
Ellis slipped through screens and past every defender the Thunder threw his way, igniting a fast-pace push to the second half. He started a three-point play with a scintillating layup over Westbrook and Wright also hit a 3-pointer to highlight a run that put the Warriors in front 80-68 in the third quarter.
All that came before Oklahoma City answered with a swift and stunning rally.
NOTES: Lee’s previous triple-double came with the Knicks at Golden State on April 2, 2010, when he had 37 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists with Knicks. … Ellis had scored 46 points twice previously. … Warriors backup PG Nate Robinson sat out against his former team with a strained left groin. … Oklahoma City swingman Thabo Sefalosha sat out his sixth straight game with a sore right foot.