Wolves fall to Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant scored 40 points to break the franchise record for scoring in a season and the Oklahoma City Thunder fought off a spirited charge by the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 116-108 victory on Sunday night.
Less than 24 hours after clinching the franchise's first playoff berth in five years, the Thunder built a 25-point lead in the first half, but then had to hang on as Minnesota moved back within six points in the final 10 minutes.
Durant hit a jumper and then threw down a two-handed alley-oop jam with 5 minutes left to restore Oklahoma City's lead to double digits and break the franchise scoring record in the process.
Ryan Gomes scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead Minnesota's comeback bid. Jonny Flynn also finished with 22 points as the Timberwolves lost for the 24th time in their last 26 games.
Russell Westbrook added 10 points and a career-best 16 assists.
Jeff Green had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Nenad Krstic scored 14 points -- including jumpers on three straight possessions down the stretch to push the Thunder's lead to 110-96 and ice the game.
With fans in the sellout crowd greeting him with a standing ovation, Durant promised before the game that the playoff berth was "only the beginning" for the Thunder. Oklahoma City has more than doubled its win total after going 23-59 last season and moved within 1½ games of the four teams tied for second place in the West by winning for the sixth time in the last seven games.
The victory also kept the Thunder in sixth place, with a one-game cushion over San Antonio.
Despite a hot start, the Thunder could hardly relax against the last-place Timberwolves.
Minnesota closed a 24-point deficit to nine in the third quarter as the Thunder missed 16 of their first 20 shots.
Gomes scored seven points in a 9-0 run and his basket inside cut the deficit to 80-71 before Durant extended Oklahoma City's cushion with four free throws on a single possession. He made all three for getting fouled by Corey Brewer behind the arc and another because Brewer was whistled for a technical for whirling in frustration after the call.
Minnesota rallied back again to get within 92-86 on Gomes' 3-pointer from the left wing with 9:25 to play before the Thunder started scoring with regularity again.
Durant's late push moved him past Dale Ellis for the season scoring record. Ellis scored 2,253 points during the 1988-89 season, when the franchise was still in Seattle.
The Timberwolves, who lost all four games in the season series, dropped their 10th straight road game.
After trading baskets early on, the Thunder got back-to-back 3-pointers from Thabo Sefolosha and Green during an 8-0 run and never looked back. Durant added a pair of 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds of the first quarter as Oklahoma City completed its highest scoring period of the season to go up 43-25.
Minnesota scored six straight points to get within 47-31 early in the second quarter, but Ibaka had a pair of baskets during Oklahoma City's 7-0 response. The Thunder went on to lead 72-50 at the half, marking the eighth time this season the Timberwolves -- with the NBA's second-worst defense -- have given up at least 70 points in a half.
NOTES: C Darko Milicic, who had started Minnesota's last eight games and 12 of 14, was inactive after bruising his jaw in the second quarter of a loss to Miami on Saturday. ... The Thunder's 43 first-quarter points were also the most given up by Minnesota in the opening period this season, and matched the most by a Timberwolves opponent in any quarter. Philadelphia scored 43 in the second quarter of a 119-97 win against the Wolves on Feb. 9. ... Westbrook had eight assists in the first nine minutes of the game and seven in the last nine minutes.