I didn’t consider this until after the fact, but a Thunder/T-Wolves match up really does present a unique degree of potential for epic statistical feats. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have already proven to be one of the most explosive tandems in the history of the game, and Kevin Love has a tendency to put together crazy numerical combinations from time to time. Neither team plays particularly good defense, yet they each rank top five in the scoring column. A frightening combination indeed.
The full potential of this match up was realized on Friday night. As the wild, 289-point contest pressed on through two overtimes, Kevin Love set two career highs, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put together one of their finest collaborations to date, and JJ Barea threw in one hell of a performance off the bench. Oklahoma City ended up taking it 149-140, but not before Love and Durant, two of the league’s coldest crunch-time assassins, could hit a multitude of big-time buckets… mostly of the tree-point variety.
Guys did get fatigued, and the defense really went to sh!t in the last five minutes. That portion of the game was a bit of a disappointment, but I suppose it was greedy of me to demand anything more than what I’d seen already. The closing moments of regulation were unbelievable, and the first overtime drew an impressive run out of Kevin Love and a flawlessly-executed play out of Oklahoma City to tie the game once again.
In the end, all those who witnessed this game (and it probably wasn’t many, what with Match Madness in full swing and other games on National TV) saw something special unfold in front of their eyes. While I was rooting hard for Love and Minnesota, I couldn’t even be mad as I watched Russell Westbrook carve up the defense of the tired T-Wolves. I cringed a little when he broke out his three-point pistols, but overall, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate that I’d seen the last 16 minutes of this incredible game. A franchise record was set, and NBA history was made. It will be talked about for a long, long time.
To help put a battle for the ages into perspective, here some of the statistical details…
- Russell Westbrook (career-high 45 points) and Kevin Durant (40 points) are the first teammates in NBA history to score 40 or more points in the same game twice in one season. No other duo has ever done it twice in their careers, let alone a single season.
- Kevin Durant added 17 rebounds to go along with his 40 points, making this the third 40-point, 15-rebound performance of his career. The last two have come against the T-Wolves.
- Kevin Love’s career-high 51 points tied Kevin Durant for the most this season, but they most notably set a new Minnesota franchise record. Kevin Garnett’s 47 scored against Phoenix on January 4th, 2005 had been the mark for over seven years. Coincidentally, both Love and Garnett lost the game. Like the current Thunder, the Suns were the top team out West in that ’04/05 season.
- Kevin Love added 14 rebounds and 7 three-point makes to his 51-point line. In the last 25 years, only two players have gathered 14+ boards while also making 7+ threes: Love and Vince Carter. The last 50-point, 14-rebound game came courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki, who dropped a 53-point, 16-rebound anvil on the Houston Rockets on December 2nd of ’04. Tracy McGrady had 48/9/9 in that same game.
- Kevin Love was forced to start at center last night due to Nikola Pekovic’s ankle injuries. Although he normally plays power forward, he’s technically the first center to score 50 points since Amare Stoudemire did it against Portland on January 2nd, 2005.
- JJ Barea recorded the first triple-double of his career, scoring 25 points, snagging 10 rebounds, and dishing 14 assists. This was the first triple-double by a Timberwolf in the post-Garnett era, and the first by a bench player since–you wouldn’t guess this name if I gave you a hundred tries–Terrence Williams. T-Will put 27/13/10 on the Chicago Bulls back in April of 2010. Barea’s triple-double is also the first by a player born in Latin America.
- Prior to Friday night, only once in NBA history had a team had one player score 50 points and another post a triple-double in a losing effort. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it happened to the 1962/63 Warriors. Wilt Chamberlain scored the 50 points and Guy Rodgers recorded the triple-double.
- Less notable, but still worth mentioning: Kendrick Perkins scored a season-high 12 points. Derek Fisher went 2-11. James Harden had 25/6/6 on 10-17, and Anthony Tolliver exploded for a season high of 23 (Tolliver’s most since 2010, when he was a Warrior).
For those of you who didn’t see the game (or want to watch it again)…
Oklahoma City’s execution on game-deciding plays is really second to none. They never fail to get Durant freed up even though everyone in attendance knows exactly where the ball is going. Watching other teams consistently struggle to get clean looks with four or five seconds to work with… it really causes me to appreciate what the Thunder are able to do.