MINNEAPOLIS--Kevin Durant is a bad man.
Oklahoma City's MVP candidate proved it one more time in Saturday night's 115-111 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center, and he told the home team's bench that in no uncertain terms during a fourth quarter when the Thunder erased a 13-point deficit and Durant scored 23 of his game-high 48 points.
While Durant willed his shorthanded team to victory, Wolves star Kevin Love got the foul call in the final seconds that he didn't receive in Monday's home loss to Dallas. Only with the Wolves trailing 113-111 and Love fouled on a three-point try with 2.2 seconds left, he missed all three free throws -- the last one intentionally.
"I thought we played well enough to win," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "We did everything but win."
They did everything to win but get the ball inside enough down the stretch to big Nikola Pekovic, who scored just six of his team-high 31 points in the final quarter; everything to win but box out Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb, who scored a crucial putback basket on one of Durant's rare fourth-quarter misses with 79 seconds left. And everything but get up enough on Durant as his confidence bloomed in the fourth quarter and he stepped farther and farther back before he let shots fly, scoring 10 points in an 11-0 Oklahoma City run that changed the game.
And, of course, the Wolves did everything to win but make free throws with the game on the line. Love missed four of them in the final 27 seconds, the last one intentionally when he tried unsuccessfully to bang it off the rim so his team could get one last chance.
"Just missed them," said Love, who all told missed four consecutive free throws in the final 27 seconds. "I'll put me on the free-throw line every single time. First time in my career in a situation like that where I've missed four straight. I'm an 80-85 percent free-throw shooter. Tonight it didn't fall. I'm sure people will say what they have to say. That's fine. In this league, you come back. You try to fight the next day."
On Monday, Love didn't get the call against the Mavericks and the Wolves left the Target Center floor outraged and two-point losers. They felt no better the next morning when the NBA announced its officials had blown the play and should have called a foul that would have sent Love to the line for two free throws that would have tied the game.
On Saturday, Love got the call when Thunder forward Kendrick Perkins was whistled for fouling him on a three-point try.
"It's one of those things," Adelman said. "It happens to the best of players. It's just one of those things."
The last time these two teams played at Target Center, in the second game of the season, the Wolves limited Durant to a season-low 13 points, with most of that defensive work was done by Corey Brewer, who sat at his locker exhausted by night's end. The Wolves won that game 100-81.
On Saturday, Brewer drew the same assignment before fouling out in the final 30 seconds on a call the Wolves protested when Lamb leapt over Brewer and came down hard on the floor in a crash near the Oklahoma City basket.
Durant started the night by making one of his first six shots, which made him 5-for-17 at Target Center this season by late in the first quarter.
He got better. Much better.
Without injured Russell Westbrook, Durant put the Thunder on his figuratively broad back and carried them as far as a single man could take them, all the way back from a 92-79 deficit in the fourth quarter's opening moments into a 109-107 lead with 1:19 to play after Lamb tipped in a rare Durant miss.
"He's a great player," Adelman said about Durant. "He makes shots from a lot of different angles and he puts a lot of pressure on you. When he gets it going like that, he just pulls up from 30, 35 feet and knocks them down. He just puts a lot of pressure on your defense."
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