Durant returns and leads Thunder over Timberwolves

Published 11:19 pm Monday, November 22, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Jeff Green was tired. Even superstar Kevin Durant admitted the same.

The two were coming off injured ankles and didn’t know how exactly they would react Monday night against Minnesota in their first game back.

Green caught his second wind, and made the game-winning 3-pointer with less than a minute to play as the Thunder won their fifth game in a row with a 117-107 victory over the Timberwolves.

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Green had sat out the past four games with a left ankle sprain, but he returned with an impressive night, making the go-ahead 3-pointer with 54.7 seconds left. Green scored a season-high 24 points.

“My eyes lit up,” Green said of his open look with less than a minute to play. “It felt good to be on the court again. It was one of those games that was pretty fun.”

Durant, who came in averaging an NBA-best 28 points per game, had missed the past two games for the Thunder with a left ankle sprain. Monday, he scored 28 points in 40 minutes as the Thunder improved to 10-4 on the season.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but trailed by as many as six points after Minnesota’s Darko Milicic made a three-point play with less than 7 minutes to play.

Even without Durant and Green, the Thunder had won their past four games, including road wins at Utah, Boston and Milwaukee. The Thunder scored 65 points in the first half and shot 54.8 percent for the game.

“They are fine,” Brooks said. “You want those guys back when they are ready and as a coach you want your players healthy. We’re glad we’re in a position to have everyone back tonight. Obviously, Kevin and Jeff are a big part of what we do.”

Minnesota’s Kevin Love scored on a layup to give the T-Wolves a 105-104 lead with 1:20 to play, but Green hit a 3-pointer from straight-away and the Thunder never trailed for the final 57 seconds.

“We made it a little closer than we wanted,” Brooks said. “But the guys made plays down the end. They (Minnesota) deserve some credit. They started making shots and didn’t give up.”

The Thunder won for the seventh time in eight games. Love had 24 points and 17 rebounds for the T-Wolves who fell to 4-11 and lost for the fourth time in five games. Milicic had 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

Green came in averaging 18.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in six starts. He played 39 minutes and didn’t seem hampered by the ankle sprain. Durant played 40 minutes and showed no ill effects from his ankle injury. Green was 9-of-16 shooting. Durant was 6-of-16 from the field.

“Oh, I was tired out there,” Green said. “It was my first complete game in two weeks, but I know my limits. Eventually my second wind came around.”

And so did the game-winning shot. After Durant missed an 11-footer, Thabo Sefolosha grabbed the rebound and found Green wide open for the game-winner.

“Just a big shot,” Sefolosha said. “I saw Jeff open and he knocked down the shot.”

Sefolosha had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Thunder. Russell Wesbrook had 20 points and 14 assists.

“I was definitely winded early,” Durant said. “But the ankle felt good. I was able to move around better.”

Notes: The Thunder came into the game shooting a league-best 87-percent from the foul line. The best record all-time for a season is the Celtics, who shot 83-percent as a team in the 1989-1990 season. However, Oklahoma City was just 80 percent for the game Monday, making 32-of-40 foul shots. … Oklahoma City scored 65 points in the first half, one point away from a season-best. The Thunder scored 66 on Nov. 14 against San Antonio.