Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and the Minnesota Timberwolves were ganging up on Kevin Durant, and a rare three-game losing streak for the Oklahoma City Thunder was just over the horizon.
Durant’s sidekick was on the bench in street clothes, leaving him on an island again. Frustrated from a poor start, Durant came out swinging in the fourth quarter and knocked the Timberwolves out with a fury.
Barking at and mean-mugging the feisty Wolves, Durant scored 23 of his season-high 48 points in the fourth quarter and hit the winner with 4 seconds to play to rally the Thunder from 13 points down to a 115-111 victory on Saturday night.
"I just hear a lot of stuff and I just wanted to come through for my team in the fourth quarter," Durant said, an apparent shot at some trash talk he heard from the Wolves’ bench.
Durant went 7 for 11 from the field and hit four 3-pointers in the final quarter to help the Thunder rebound from two straight losses at home.
Love played the entire second half and finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for the Wolves. But he missed four free throws in the final 27 seconds to let this one slip away. The last three came when he was fouled on a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to go and the Wolves down two.
After Durant hit a step-back jumper from 18 feet right over Dante Cunningham’s outstretched arm to give the Thunder a 113-111 lead, Love was fouled on a 3-pointer by Kendrick Perkins. Perhaps a little gassed from the work load, Love missed the first two free throws and his on-purpose miss on the third one didn’t hit the rim, giving Oklahoma City the ball.
"I was more upset about the first one I missed," Love said. "I left it short. I think they were flat and short. There was no real air under them. Just missed them."
Durant knocked down two more free throws, and the two stars embraced after the final horn, a thrilling duel just finished.
Durant and Love each got off to slow starts for the game, combining to shoot 8 for 24 in the first half. But they gave everyone their money’s worth in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder trailed 90-77 in the fourth before Durant, who also had seven rebounds and seven assists, went off.
The Thunder had let two fourth quarter leads slip away at home this week thanks to opposing defenses swarming Durant and forcing other players to beat them. Durant sure got involved Saturday, scoring six of Oklahoma City’s first seven buckets in the fourth to get the Thunder going.
"I was hanging my head a little bit in the first half and my teammates got on me about it," Durant said. "So I just wanted to keep my head high no matter what and stay aggressive and I was able to hit a few."
The last four shots of that flurry were 3s, and he struck a pose and stared at the Wolves’ bench after the final one cut Minnesota’s lead to 97-96 with 7 minutes to play.
The two superstars traded haymakers the rest of the way.
In one stirring sequence, Love hit a layup, Durant drilled a 3 and Love hit one of his own for a 97-93 Wolves lead with just over seven minutes to play. Durant came right back with yet another 3 and again woofed at the Wolves’ bench.
Love tied it on a hook shot over Serge Ibaka and then scored on a drive to the hoop that tied it again, at 111, with 27 seconds to play. But he missed the free throw that came with the foul, opening the door for Durant’s cold-blooded response.
"The special ones can have a poor shooting night and come down at the end of the game and make four or five to win the game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That’s how they’re wired because they’re great players. He loves to inspire his teammates with his play."
Derek Fisher scored 13 points, and Ibaka had 12 points for Oklahoma City, which outscored Minnesota’s bench 40-5.
Pekovic had 31 points and 11 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio had 13 points, 10 assists and five steals, but missed six of his final seven shots.
"I’ll take K-Love in that situation no matter what," Wolves forward Corey Brewer said. "He missed them tonight. Next time he’ll make them."
NOTES: Kevin Martin had 17 points and six rebounds for Minnesota. Oklahoma City committed 22 turnovers, but scored 24 points off 15 miscues by Minnesota. … Timberwolves first-round draft choice Shabazz Muhammad will start a four-game stint with Iowa in the NBA Development League on Sunday.