Thunder Rally To Win #2 Seed
Earlier in the day Kevin Durant told reporters he and his teammates wanted to "just win, just win the game," and win it they did, just barely. Mostly thanks to a Herculean fourth quarter from KD.
But at this time of the year winning is really all that matters and for most of the game the Thunder looked like winning would escape their grasp.
They trailed most of the game, down by as many as 11. They allowed another career-high night for an opponent, this time Detroit rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Jones scored 30 points. Three other Mo-Town starters got to at least 20 points. Twin towers Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe dominated inside.
But in the end the Thunder got several of what they seemingly couldn't get all night...STOPS.
In the last three minutes of the game Detroit went 0-for-6 and the Thunder outscored the Pistons 14-6 to get a thrilling (if disconcerting) 112-111 win and the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
It wasn't supposed to be this difficult. The Pistons were just 7-23 since the middle of February but as we've seen lately the Thunder struggled to defend the 3-point line at times and also seemed almost helpless to stop the Pistons down low.
Things turned around when Drummond fouled out with 4:10 to play and the Thunder down seven. Without Drummond the Pistons weren't as prolific at grabbing rebounds and the Thunder attacked more.
Durant struggled with his shot for three quarters going 7-for-18 but in the fourth quarter he was 7-for-12. He scored half his game-high 42 points in the fourth.
"My shots weren't falling so I just tried to get as close as I could and just be aggressive," Durant said after the game. "I got what I wanted down there going to the rim."
Durant slammed home the winning points with 16.5 seconds to play.
"I'm not overly thrilled with the way we played tonight," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "But with that being said we made winning basketball plays down the stretch."
One of the biggest came with :51.9 to play when Derek Fisher went up and blocked a shot from Caldwell-Pope into the hands of Serge Ibaka. Ibaka finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks. Russell Westbrook added 22 points, eight assists, six rebounds and six steals.
Despite playing poorly on Monday and almost as poorly Wednesday the Thunder still managed to win 59 games, just one less than last season in a year full of adversity and adjustments.
"Everybody pitched in and gave ourselves a chance to win 59 games," Brooks said. "With the year we had, the adjustments we had to go through and play through and find success through them. Teamwork was taken to another level."
It probably will have to ratchet up again beginning Saturday night when the Memphis Grizzlies play the Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference playoffs. These teams have met regularly in the playoffs and each has broken the other's heart.
It was a series the Thunder were probably hoping to avoid but perhaps it will turn out for the best. The Grizzlies will certainly have the Thunder's undivided attention something that was a bit lacking in these last couple of games of the regular season.