Found March 24, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
When Kevin Love hit a game-tying three-pointer with a second left in regulation, Kevin Durant smiled. Of all the things to do after your team has blown a lead, with the chances of winning before overtime as slim as any, to smile would seem like the least obvious choice. But Durant is a competitor, and this was a challenge. It was as if he knew what was to come, that he and his team would be able to wear down the Timberwolves, that two overtimes would be too much.And they were. After taking a five-point lead in the game's first overtime, the Timberwolves faded fast, allowing Oklahoma City to tie the game again and push it to double overtime. Once those final five minutes began, it was over. The Timberwolves never led again and went on to lose, 149-140."I think we ran out of energy," J.J. Barea said. "They just kept attacking, and Durant kept hitting some tough shots. We had the game won in that first overtime It's basketball. That's how it is."It was the most exciting game of the season, just seconds from what could have been the team's biggest win of the year. But really, it shouldn't have happened.Not in Oklahoma City on the last day of a grueling, two-week road trip.Not without Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, not without the team's top bench scorer, Michael Beasley.Not against Kevin Durant, who finished with 40 points. Not when Russell Westbrook tops that and finishes with 45.But it did. It took a combined 289 points and ten extra minutes of basketball for the best team in the Western Conference to finally silence the Timberwolves. It took a new franchise scoring record for Kevin Love read it, 51 points and a triple-double for Barea, the first by a Timberwolves player since Kevin Durant in 2007. It took 60 bench points in what was the team's best offensive performance of the season, and that the Thunder were able to overcome all those things proves that they're among the best in the league."It was tough," Love said. "We had chances to win the game. We had a couple calls not go our way. Kevin (Durant), Russell (Westbrook) and James Harden and the rest of their team made plays. That's why they're the top team in the West."Before the game, Timberwolves' coach Rick Adelman admitted he was worried that his team just wanted to go home. This seven-game road trip had been a cruel test of the team's mettle, and it went into Friday with a 2-4 record after hoping to hover near .500 on the trip. But Adelman's fears weren't realized, as his team endured 58 minutes of basketball as if it hadn't been away from home for two weeks.It was a night of shattered records, and Love's 51 points pushed him past Kevin Garnett, who held the previous franchise record for points in a game, with 47. He also sunk seven three-pointers, which was a career-high and the reason the team managed to push the game to overtime. But it wasn't just Love. It was Barea's 25 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. It was Anthony Tolliver's 23 points, the most he's scored since 2010. It was a team that realized what it was missing but didn't discount the talent it still had."Coach just said in the locker room, myself included, I'm proud of the guys right now," Love said. "They really stepped up. You know, we're shorthanded right now."The Timberwolves will fly back to Minneapolis Friday night and prepare for Denver on Sunday. The road trip will finally be over, and though Minnesota may not have done so well against the test it presented, it at least managed to go down with its best fight of the season. Its record during the stretch will still be 2-5; that doesn't account for Friday night's effort, and it shouldn't, but it's refreshing to see how much it takes to count Love and his team out of even the most competitive games.Love said postgame that he was encouraged by the effort his team put forth, and he hopes the team can remember what that felt like and put forth a similar fight in its final 17 games. However, it was hard for him to be excited, his downcast gaze and matter-of-fact analysis hallmarks of the frustration he exhibits after every loss. Even those 51 points, the seven three-pointers weren't enough to shake the nagging pain of the loss."It would mean a lot more in a win," Love said of his performance.Of course it would. And no one would expect Love to feel any other way.Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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