15th April 2012, 04:20 AM
Durant, Westbrook combine for 78 v. Wolves (Yahoo! Sports)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kevin Durant scored 43 points and Russell Westbrook had 35 and eight assists to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference with a 115-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
Durant scored 16 in the final seven minutes for the Thunder (44-16), who started the day one game ahead of the Spurs - but tied in the loss column - for the top seed in the West.
Anthony Randolph had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Michael Beasley scored 26 for the Timberwolves, who lost their ninth straight game and 25th in a row in April dating to 2009.
The Wolves were without All-Star Kevin Love, who missed his second straight game with a concussion. J.J. Barea had 24 points and 10 assists, but Minnesota missed 12 free throws.
Barea's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 112-110 with 13.8 seconds to play, but Westbrook iced the game at the line, where the Thunder hit 28 of 32 shots.
Serge Ibaka had eight points, 12 rebounds and five blocks and James Harden returned from a one-game absence because of a sore right knee. He scored six on 1-for-11 shooting.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game that Oklahoma City would like to lock down home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but they weren't ''focused on it.'' He's more concerned with the team staying healthy and playing the right way heading into the postseason. After a three-game losing streak earlier this month, the Thunder have won four of their last five games.
The Wolves gave the Thunder all they could handle in their first two meetings, losing 104-100 in the season opener and 149-140 in an epic double overtime game in Oklahoma City on March 23. But they had Love in both of those games and weren't expected to give the mighty Thunder much trouble on Saturday night playing without Love, Ricky Rubio (knee) and Luke Ridnour (ankle).
The Thunder appeared to be taking control with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter, but Beasley and Randolph kept the plucky Wolves in the game and Barea looked more like the annoying pest who helped the Mavericks win the title last season.
Randolph converted a three-point play and knocked down a jumper, Malcolm Lee had a three-point play and Beasley hit a 15-footer to cut the lead to 91-90 with 10 minutes to play.
Durant simply had an answer for every Wolves push. He blew by Anthony Tolliver for a dunk, knocked down a silky jump shot from the wing, scored on a back-down in the post and drove past Randolph for another bucket and a 105-97 lead with just under 4 minutes to go.
He even came up big on defense, forcing a traveling violation by Randolph and poking the ball away to create a fast-break bucket for Westbrook to hold the Wolves off.
Westbrook was 12 of 25 from the floor, and he's received some criticism for the amount of shots he takes and not being more of a playmaking point guard that keeps his teammates, particularly Durant, more involved. Wolves coach Rick Adelman scoffed at that notion before the game, saying ''everybody doesn't have to be John Stockton.''
''If they're really down on him, he can come over here,'' Adelman deadpanned.
NOTES: It was Durant's fourth 40-point game of the season. ... The Wolves announced a crowd of 19,552, their 11th sellout of the season. That's the most since they went to the Western Conference finals in 2003-04. ... Timberwolves G Wayne Ellington was active after missing the previous two games with back spasms. He did not play.
RT @rashad20: that was 1 of the many times this season when crawford brings the ball up, and totally ignores Wall calling for the ball back
North Carolina's Harrison Barnes has reached agreement with agent Jeff Wechsler for his pro representation, sources tell Y! Sports.
Source: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/durant-westbrook-combine-78-v-023917715--nba.html]Yahoo Sports[/url]
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