Durant scores career-high 51 to lift Thunder - NBC Sports

Durant scores career-high 51 to lift Thunder
Westbrook adds 40, Ibaka notches triple-double to beat Nuggets in OT
AP
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant dunks for two of his career-high 51 points against the Nuggets on Sunday.
February 20, 2012, 12:02 am

The "MVP" chants had subsided, the final seconds ticked down and Kevin Durant sauntered over to the sideline to give his mother a smooch on the forehead and a big hug.

For the first time, the two-time NBA scoring champion had eclipsed 50 points and it came on a historic night for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant scored a career-best 51 for the top performance in the NBA this season, Russell Westbrook added 40 points and Serge Ibaka had his first career triple-double as the Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets 124-118 in overtime Sunday night.

"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."

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 each scored 40 points since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did it for Chicago in 1996.

"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."

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 rallied from nine points down in the fourth quarter - despite scoring 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."

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.

"They're one of the best teams in basketball and we took them to overtime. In a lot of ways, we won the game but the scoreboard says we lost it," Karl said.

"Somehow, some way, you've got to get to my team to show them that we won a lot of things tonight."

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.

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.

"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 said he believes he and Westbrook, a fellow All-Star, are starting to play better off of one another this season. There was buzz in last year's playoffs, starting with a first-round series against Denver, that Westbrook was taking too many shots and the chemistry between the pair was lacking.

They took turns deflecting credit after this mammoth performance.

"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 Nuggets took an early lead before allowing a 16-2 Oklahoma City run that featured a pair of 3-pointers from Durant and Westbrook's driving dunk. Afflalo then had two jumpers and a finger roll in transition as Denver scored the final 10 points to lead 27-25.

That was only the start of a 29-7 Nuggets run, though.

Reserve Kosta Koufos, forced into action after Al Harrington picked up three fouls, had a three-point play and two layups set up by Miller. Chris Andersen's fast-break layup made it 46-32 with 6:29 left before halftime - Oklahoma City's largest deficit at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season.

It still didn't take the Thunder long to wipe it away, with a 20-0 run spanning halftime.

Durant had a two-handed slam off Westbrook's alley-oop and a right-handed fast-break jam in a span of three possessions, and Oklahoma City led 65-58 with 8:04 left in the third.

Then it was Denver's turn again, rallying back to take a brief lead late in the third and then getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Harrington just after Durant and Westbrook re-entered for a 93-84 advantage with 8:50 to play.

Oklahoma City whittled away and finally pulled even at 102 when Westbrook connected on a jumper from the foul line with 2:52 to play. Ibaka swatted Lawson's shot 20 seconds later for his 10th block in regulation.

Lawson hit a 3-pointer and Harrington two free throws for a 111-106 Denver lead with 43 seconds left, but Durant hit a second-chance 3-pointer from the top of the key with 30 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a chance.

He drove past 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?"

Still, it was the first time Durant made it to the half-century mark - and only after six points in overtime.

"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."

Notes: Thunder reserve Lazar Hayward was out with a fractured left orbital floor after being poked in the eye late in Oklahoma City's win against Golden State on Friday. ... The Nuggets (103.4) and Thunder (101.6) are two of three teams averaging more than 100 points per game, trailing only Miami (103.7) in the NBA rankings. ... Lenny Wilkens, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Jack Sikma are among the 12 players with triple-doubles for the Seattle SuperSonics. Westbrook is the only one other than Ibaka to do it with the Thunder.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Slideshow

NBC Sports