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 of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Minneapolis.

Jim Mone, Associated Press - Ap

Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant shot over Kevin Love on his way to a monster 48-point evening Saturday night at Target Center.

Jim Mone • Associated Press,

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) stands nearby as Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) is checked on my teammates, including center DeAndre Jordan, left, and forward Blake Griffin (32), after he was injured during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Dallas. The Clippers won 119-112. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

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Kevin Love: After not getting the call Monday, he earned a trip to the line vs. OKC — but missed three free throws.

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Wolves waste opportunities as Durant leads Thunder to victory

  • Article by: Jerry Zgoda
  • January 5, 2014 - 6:31 PM

Kevin Durant is a bad man.

In case anyone had forgotten, Oklahoma City’s MVP candidate proved it one more time in Saturday night’s 115-111 victory over the Timberwolves at Target Center, and he told his opponent’s bench so in no uncertain terms during a fourth quarter in which he scored 23 of his season-high 48 points to help the Thunder erase a 13-point deficit.

While Durant willed his shorthanded team to victory, Wolves star Kevin Love got the foul call at game’s end that he didn’t receive in Monday’s home loss to Dallas … and then missed all three free throws, the last one intentionally, with his team down 113-111 and 2.2 seconds to play.

Love said fatigue played a part in his misses after he played the entire second half. On his final attempt following Kendrick Perkins’ foul on his three-point try, Love didn’t even hit the rim as he tried to bang it off the iron.

“Just missed them,” said Love, who 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.”

Said Wolves coach Rick Adelman: “It’s just one of those things. It happens to the best of players.”

The Wolves (16-17) have worked back up to .500 six times in the past five weeks, only to fall back below that threshold each time. Adelman said they played well enough to win.

“We did everything but win,” Adelman said.

They did everything to win but get the ball inside enough down the stretch to big Nikola Pekovic, who scored only six of his team-high 31 points in the final quarter. They did everything to win but box out Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb, who scored a crucial putback on one of Durant’s rare fourth-quarter misses with 79 seconds left.

And they did everything to win but get up enough on Durant as his confidence bloomed in that fourth quarter. He stepped farther and farther back before letting shots fly, scoring 10 points in an 11-0 Oklahoma City run early in the quarter that changed the game.

“That’s going to be the all-time scoring leader,” Love said. “He’s just an unbelievable player.”

After making the second of consecutive threes in that run, Durant stared at the Wolves bench on his way back down the floor, and lip readers working courtside swear he told the home team what a bad man he really is.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks agrees.

“He’s just a terrific player,” Brooks said. “There’s many reasons why I love our guys, the same reason why our fans love them. They play with such a high competitive spirit.”

Durant’s undeniable performance rescued the Thunder after it had blown 16-point leads in losing each of its past two home games before playing at Target Center without injured guard Russell Westbrook for the second time this season.

The first time, Corey Brewer helped hold Durant to a season-low 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting in a 100-81 Wolves rout in the season’s second game.

This time out, the 6-9 All-Star fell four points short of matching his career high of 52, set at Dallas last Jan. 18.

Durant afterward praised Lamb instead, calling him the game’s star, both for that crucial putback and for a play with 30.6 seconds left and the score tied. Leaping for a rebound after a Love miss, Lamb was undercut by Brewer and dangerously crash-landed upside down. Brewer was called for a sixth foul and Lamb made two free throws.

The Wolves protested the foul, with Adelman later saying, “The guy jumped over his neck.”

“Jeremy Lamb, I think he won the game,” Durant said. “Got a huge tip, huge rebound, made two free throws and almost cracked his head open on the ground. You’ve got to give him the game ball because he stuck with it.”

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