Created: 01/04/2014 10:00 PM KSTP.com
Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic, left, of Montenegro, goes to the basket as Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka, center, and Kevin Durant defend during the first quarter.
Photo: Photo: AP/Jim Mone
Kevin 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 Oklahoma City Thunder from 13 points down in a 115-111 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
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.
Kevin 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.
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 has 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.
He was 5 of 16 in the first half, but grew more emboldened than ever in the fourth to try to stave off the Thunder's first three-game losing streak since last February. Durant found his shot in a hurry, hitting a runner in the lane, a drive to the bucket and two 3s during an 11-0 run to cut Minnesota's lead to 92-90 with nine minutes to go.
His last shot was a pull-up 3 in transition, and Durant struck a pose and stared at the Wolves' bench, and it was on.
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 barked at the Wolves' bench.
Love's second 3 of the fourth gave Minnesota a 103-100 lead with 4:30 to play, but Jeremy Lamb followed a missed jumper by Durant to give Oklahoma City a 109-107 lead with 1:19 to go.
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.
Derek Fisher scored 13 points, and Ibaka had 12 points for Oklahoma City, which was outscored 66-46 in the paint.
Nikola 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.
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 weeklong stint with Iowa in the NBA Development League on Sunday.
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