Timberwolves' LaVine scores season-high 35 in loss to Thunder
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Durant has had the ball in his hands with the game on the line so many times that he feels totally carefree in the game's biggest moments.
The young Minnesota Timberwolves stars don't have the same comfort level yet, and that was the difference on Wednesday night.
Durant had 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and hit two huge shots in the final two minutes to help the Oklahoma City Thunder win a second-straight, fast-paced thriller with a 126-123 victory over the Timberwolves.
"That's the most carefree time of the game for me," Durant said. "I just put them up, you know. You can't change shooting percentage that quickly. When there's 3-4 minutes to go, you can't be conservative, just shoot good shots and make the right plays."
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds, while Enes Kanter had 23 points and 10 boards for the Thunder, who beat the Knicks in overtime the night before. Oklahoma City outrebounded Minnesota 47-31 to go home from a four-game road trip at 3-1.
Zach LaVine scored 35 points on 14-for-17 shooting, Andrew Wiggins added 20 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points, 13 boards and five assists for the Timberwolves. Minnesota shot 55.6 percent and had 31 assists, but missed 10 free throws.
"We played tremendously well today. This is a game we can live with," Towns said. "We've just got to finish. KD hit some amazing shots at the end that really gave his team the spark to win."
The Thunder were clinging to a 113-111 lead when Durant hit a 25-foot 3 from the wing. He then made a jumper in the lane to pad it back to 118-113, the second straight night his late-game heroics helped Oklahoma City escape. In New York, Durant hit the game-tying shot with 16.2 seconds to go, then scored seven in OT to finish with 44 points.
"I listened to Robert Horry say plenty of those times when he hit those big shots he just didn't care," Durant said. "I try to take that same approach. The worst thing that can happen is I miss and we lose. That's not as bad as a lot of other things that could be."
The Thunder didn't arrive in Minneapolis until 3 a.m. after spending four days in snowy New York and needing extra time to beat the Knicks. Durant and Westbrook carried the load against the Knicks, combining to play more than 87 minutes and score 74 points to help the Thunder bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Nets.
They were facing the Timberwolves for the third time this month, but Minnesota has been playing with a different energy and pace over the last week to break out of a 1-13 funk. The young Wolves came out running again, surging out to an eight-point lead on the strength of terrific ball movement and shot-making from LaVine, Towns, Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng.
It was back-and-forth the rest of the way, with one breathtaking sequence in the third quarter in which Wiggins dunked on Durant in transition and Westbrook came right back with a 3 from the wing.
LaVine's fourth 3-pointer of the night gave Minnesota a 99-93 lead early in the fourth, but Kanter scored six straight in a 10-0 run to put Durant in position to close it out.
The Wolves entered the night with the second-best free throw percentage in the NBA, but shot just 64 percent from the line.
The second-year guard made 5 of 8 3-pointers and went 9 for 9 on the rest of his field goals. His 35 points set a franchise record for scoring from a bench player and are the most a non-starter has scored in the NBA this season.
"He's playing fast, but thinking slow," Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said.
Thunder: PG Cameron Payne left the game early in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms and did not return. He was limited to five minutes. . . . Durant topped 20 points for the 33rd straight game, the longest active streak in the league.
Timberwolves: Dieng had 21 points and nine rebounds. . . . Towns, Wiggins and LaVine were named to the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend. The Toronto native Wiggins will play on the World team while Towns and LaVine will play for the U.S. team. Towns has competed internationally for the Dominican Republic because his mom is Dominican. But the NBA put him on the U.S. team because he was born in New Jersey.
Thunder: Host Houston on Friday.
Timberwolves: Visit Utah on Friday.