Durant carries Thunder to win over Timberwolves

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Oklahoma City small forward Kevin Durant wasn't going to let the Thunder lose a third game in a row. Not with the way he played in the fourth quarter Saturday night.

It didn't matter that Oklahoma City trailed Minnesota by 13 points with less than 11 minutes to play. It didn't matter that the Thunder struggled down the stretch in losses to Portland and Brooklyn. That's because Durant simply took over.

Aggressive from behind the 3-point line and attacking the basket, Durant scored 23 of his season-high 48 points in the fourth quarter as the Thunder rallied for a come-from-behind, 115-111 victory over the Timberwolves.

Early in the fourth quarter, Durant scored 16 of 17 points for the Thunder, single-handedly erasing Oklahoma City's deficit. At the end of the quarter, his step-back 18-footer with four seconds to play put the Thunder ahead for good, 113-111, and two free throws sealed the victory.

"Kevin was on fire," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He did a great job setting himself up to get open. Kevin took over when needed."

The 48 points are the most scored by an NBA player this season while his 23-point outburst over the final 12 minutes is the best fourth quarter this season. Durant hit seven of 11 from the field in the fourth quarter and made four 3-pointers over the final 10 minutes.

Not bad for a guy who said he was feeling down early in the game.

"I just stuck with it," Durant said. "I was hanging my head a little bit in the first half and my teammates got on me about it. So I just wanted to keep my head high no matter what and stay aggressive and I was able to hit a few."

Minnesota, who held Durant to a season low in the teams' first meeting this season, didn't double-team the NBA's leading scorer. Timberwolves wing Corey Brewer did a solid job on Durant for three quarters, but was the defender for much of the fourth-quarter explosion.

"The last two games we just didn't make shots," Durant said. "But tonight when they played me straight up, I was able to get what I wanted to get and make some shots."

Said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman: "He's a great player. He makes shots from a lot of different angles and he puts a lot of pressure on you. When he gets going like that, he just pulls up from 30, 35 feet and knocks them down."

Brooks has been around Durant long enough to know that these kind of outbursts can occur at any moment.

"I sense that every game," Brooks said. "I feel he's going to be put in position to win games because he plays the right way and there's no agenda in his body. He plays to win each possession."

Even with Durant's outburst, Minnesota still had a very good chance to win the game.

Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 2.2 seconds to play. Love missed the first two free throws and turned the ball over when his missed shot didn't hit the rim.

"Just missed them," said Love, who recorded his 29th double-double in 32 games this season with 30 points and 14 rebounds. "I was more upset about the first one that I missed, left it short. I think they were flat and short and no real air on them. Just missed them."

Center Nikola Pekovic led the Timberwolves with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Reserve point guard Derek Fisher scored 13 points for Oklahoma City while power forward Serge Ibaka had 12.

Minnesota missed an opportunity to go above .500. The Timberwolves, who had won three of four, are now three games behind Dallas in the race for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Thanks to Durant's outburst, the Thunder avoided losing three games in a row for the first time since last February. Oklahoma City is now tied with Portland for the best record in the Western Conference has also won eight consecutive road games.

Durant admitted to being motivated by some people questioning whether the Thunderwolves can survive several weeks without point guard Russell Westbrook.

"I read a lot, and I hear a lot of what people say," Durant said. "You interpret it how you want to. I just hear a lot of stuff and I just wanted to come through for my team in the fourth quarter.

He certainly did that.

NOTES: Oklahoma City was outscored 56-32 in the fourth quarter of losses this week to Portland and Brooklyn as the Thunder adjusts to playing without G Russell Westbrook. Both the Trail Blazers and the Nets made players other than F Kevin Durant beat them. "They have other guys, but in the fourth quarter the last couple of games, for whatever reason it hasn't happened," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said before the game. "I think they'll figure it out; they're a quality team." ... Durant (28.6 points per game) and F Kevin Love (26.3 ppg) entered the game as the NBA's leading scorers. ... F Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota's first-round draft pick, is headed to Des Moines and expected to play at least four games with the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League. Muhammad has played little for the Timberwolves this season, appearing in only 11 games. ... The game was the first half of a back-to-back for Oklahoma City as the Thunder host Boston on Sunday night. Minnesota plays at Philadelphia on Monday and will attempt to complete the season sweep of the 76ers.

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