Thunder top Wolves in instant classic

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
12:56
AM ET
Young By Royce Young
ESPN.com
Archive
OKLAHOMA CITY -- As confetti fell from the rafters at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Kevin Durant sat on the edge of the scorer’s table waiting to do a radio interview with a stat sheet in his hand. He looked it over for a good 15 seconds and then put it down.

And just shook his head. Because after a game like the one that happened in Oklahoma City Friday night, that's really all you could do.

Kevin Love had a career-high 51 points on just 27 shots. His former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook had a career-high 45 on 28 shots. Durant had 40 to go with 17 rebounds and five assists. James Harden had 25 off the Thunder bench. J.J. Barea finished with a triple-double off the Minnesota bench -- 25 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds. Just take a minute and look at the box score. It's ridiculous.

But in the end, the two most important numbers were 149 and 140, as the Thunder prevailed in double overtime. The game didn't appear to be headed for OT after Durant drilled a killer step-back 3 over Anthony Tolliver with three seconds left to put OKC up 116-113. But just like the 3-point contest All-Star Weekend, Love had an answer from deep, nailing a tough contested 3 to send it to overtime.

Then it was Durant's turn again, hitting a 3 over Love in the corner to tie the game again. Barea missed a clean look and it was off to a second extra session. Westbrook scored nine of his 45 in the second overtime, Durant hit a filthy Dirk-like one-legged jumper and OKC had enough to hang on.

“That’s going to be a game that’s going to be replayed for a little while now. It was fun to be a part of. It was nerve-racking,” Durant said. “Being down five, 29 seconds, we’ve seen that before. We made some big plays. Guys trusted each other. And that’s what good teams do. They make the right basketball plays.”

The way Durant said “We’ve seen that before” had an air of, “We knew we had it all along.” And while heartstoppers like this aren’t a good habit to get into, it does make a strong statement that there is a never-panic, never-say-die mentality with the Thunder that you just can’t deny. There’s a resiliency that’s special, that’s almost tangible. Not many teams would think "we got this," down five and less than 30 seconds to go.

But when you have a guy like Durant who can pull you out of the mire with a ridiculous contested 3, or a guy like Westbrook who won’t ever quit competing on the offensive glass to create up an extra shot at a critical moment, or a guy like Harden who always makes the right play, you’ve got a group that’s built to win, no matter the circumstances.

There’s been a lot of talk about Derek Fisher bringing in experience of big moments and big shots, and while the playoffs are another story, the Thunder clearly are building quite the late-game résumé. You can go to war with Durant. You can go to war with Westbrook. With Harden, with Nick Collison and on and on. That group is willing to fight, willing to play to the finish. There are times where Durant doesn’t hit that crucial 3 or they don’t get that vital stop. But more often than not, this Thunder team is building a reputation for finding ways to do it.

And that’s something you can pack in a suitcase and take with you into May.

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