source: JEFF LATZKE | AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—With two NBA scoring titles to his credit, it seemed inevitable that Kevin Durant would eventually hit the 50-point plateau.
He picked a historic night to do it.
Durant scored a career-best 51 points for the top performance in the NBA this season, Russell Westbrook added 40 and Serge Ibaka had his first career triple-double as the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets 124-118 in overtime Sunday night.
The Thunder trio became the first teammates in NBA history to put together a 50-point night, a 40-point complementary effort and a triple-double. No teammates had scored at least 40 points apiece since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did it for Chicago in 1996, and Denver’s Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English back in a 1983 triple-overtime game were the last tandem to go for 50 and 40.
“Unbelievable,” Oklahoma City’s James Harden said. “That’s probably one of the best regular-season games that I’ve played in since I’ve been here, or the best.
“Kevin had 50, Russell had 40 and Serge had a triple-double. What else can you say?”
Durant hit a 3-pointer and drove for a dunk to tie the game with 4.4 seconds left in regulation, after Oklahoma City had to rally from nine points down in the fourth quarter—despite having scored 20 points in a row during a stretch spanning halftime.
Ibaka added 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks to become the 14th player in franchise history with a triple-double and the first to do it with double-digit blocks. It was his third time with at least 10 blocks this season.
“It’s unreal, man,” Westbrook said. “Tonight was a nice, epic game.”
Fans in the sellout crowd chanted “MVP!” as Durant hit two free throws in the final seconds to surpass 50 points for the first time and put the finishing touches on Oklahoma City’s ninth straight win at home.
His steal allowed the Thunder to run out the final few ticks and give him a moment to cherish with his family. He walked over and gave his mother, who was seated courtside, a smooch on the forehead and a big hug when time expired.
“They’ve been there with me ever since I was 8 trying to play this game,” Durant said. “To score 50 points with them on the sideline at the highest level of basketball is a dream come true and a blessing. To go through it with them is pretty cool.”
Durant, who will start the All-Star game for the second straight time this weekend, had scored at least 40 points 17 times in his four-year career. But 50 had always been elusive.
“The way we came back and the shots that were made in the fourth quarter and for us to win, that feels better to get the W,” Durant said.
“But 51 is pretty cool. As a kid, that’s something that you dream about.”
He scored six points in overtime to get over the hump.
“Now, it doesn’t stop. Once he gets it, it’s going to come naturally to him,” Westbrook said. “He’s a natural-born scorer.”
“To be honest, I didn’t think I would be at this point when I was young,” said Durant, still just 23 years old. “Everything has been a whirlwind for me, and I’m just happy that I’m here.”
Arron Afflalo scored 27 points and Andre Miller had 21 points and 10 assists for Denver, which had a shot to win at the end of regulation.
Ty Lawson, who missed a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left, also couldn’t connect on an off-balance jumper from the foul line at the buzzer after pump-faking Westbrook into the air.
Reserve Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain) joined starters Danilo Gallinari (ankle) and Nene (calf) on the Nuggets’ injury list, and coach George Karl went with his 13th different lineup of the season in 32 games.
Denver lost for the eighth time in its last 10 games. The last two have been particularly wrenching, on a tip-in with under a second left at Memphis and then an overtime thriller at West-leading Oklahoma City.
“We’re piecing it together pretty good right now. I’m excited about that,” Karl said. “I’m excited about the energy we’re putting on the court. … I feel bad for them because they deserve at least one win, maybe both wins.”
Westbrook hit a 3 on Oklahoma City’s opening possession of overtime, and the Nuggets committed five turnovers to squander their chances in the extra period.
“People might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime,” Durant said.
It was a wildly back-and-forth game from the start, with big swings in either direction.
The Thunder had a 16-2 run to dig out of an early hole, then gave up a 29-7 Nuggets run to trail 46-32 with 6:29 left before halftime—their largest deficit at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season.
Oklahoma City took care of that with a 20-0 run spanning halftime, going up 65-58 after Durant’s right-handed slam with 8:04 left in the third.
Then it was Denver’s turn again, rallying to take a brief lead late in the third and then getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Al Harrington just after Durant and Westbrook re-entered for a 93-84 advantage with 8:50 to play.
After Oklahoma City came back to tie it, Lawson hit a 3-pointer and Harrington made two free throws for a 111-106 Denver lead with 43 seconds left. Durant hit a second-chance 3-pointer from the top of the key with 30 seconds left and then drove past Chris Andersen for a dunk with 4.4 seconds remaining to tie it up.
“We were kind of laughing and saying, `When was the last time he missed a shot in the fourth quarter against us?’ He makes everything,” Karl said.
“There’s an offensive rebound. Why does he come wide open? Why can’t someone else come wide open?”