By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Before the season started, a poll was taken among NBA general managers on who they’d want to have the ball in their hands in the final seconds to win or tie a game. Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant finished first with almost 40 percent of the votes.
Sunday, with his team needing him to come through once again, Durant showed why he has earned that type of respect around the league as he led the Thunder to a 106-105 overtime victory over Washington at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
“You never feel like it’s over when you got a guy named Kevin Durant on the other side,” Wizards guard John Wall said.
With 3:19 left in the game, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and Wizards center Nene were ejected from the game after receiving double technicals during a scuffle that saw Westbrook push Nene.
The altercation seemed to spur the Thunder (5-1) on. Without Nene in the lane, forward Serge Ibaka hit a turnaround jumper with 2:10 left to cut the Wizards’ lead to 92-86.
Guard Jeremy Lamb knocked down a 3-pointer and Ibaka threw down a monster dunk to cut the deficit to 92-91 with 1:10 remaining on clock.
With 18 seconds left, Washington (2-4) led 94-93. With the entire arena screaming defense, guard Bradley Beal cruised to the basket for an easy lay-up and gave the Wizards a three-point advantage.
Durant wasn’t phased. On the ensuing possession, he pulled up from the top of the key and drained a game-tying 3-pointer with forward Trevor Ariza in his face. The game went to overtime.
“I just tried to read the play,” Durant said. “I just needed a little bit of space to get it off. If he had pressured me, I would have tried to get to the rim for two. That was the plan. I seen a opening, and coach trusted me with the shot, no matter what. Make or miss. I was fortunate enough to get that one to go in.”
Beal put the Wizards up 103-102 with 1:50 left in overtime with a 3-pointer from the corner. Oklahoma City turned the ball over and center Marcin Gortot made them pay with a layup.
Ibaka closed the gap to one point with a putback of guard Reggie Jackson’s missed layup Ariza tried to responded with a jumper, but Durant came up with the blocked shot and was fouled going for the layup. He hit both free throws to put Oklahoma City up 106-105.
Washington got the ball with four seconds left on the clock and trailing by one. It was enough time for Wall to get up a shot, but it was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
It was the Thunder’s first time ever winning when trailing by 12 or more points in the fourth quarter and having a 10-point deficit with less than four minutes left in regulation. Durant's game-tying three at the end of regulation was his 12th career game-tying shot in the last 24 seconds of a game. It's the most in NBA since start of 2007-08 season.
“There’s nothing wrong with our defense,” an exasperated Washington coach Randy Whitman said. “They made shots. That’s what it boils down to in this league sometimes. We were right there. Trevor Ariza was right there. Give Durant credit.”
Beal led the Wizards with 34 points on 6-of-8 shooting from behind the arc. Ariza added 15 points and five rebounds. Al Harrington came off the bench to post 11 points.
Durant finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Ibaka scored 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Westbrook added 13 points and four assists before the ejection.
Westbrook would say nothing on the altercation that led to him leaving the game, but he liked the fight he saw from his teammates down the stretch.
“We never gave up,” Westbrook said. “Did a good job of running our stuff and getting the shots we wanted."
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