With 19 seconds to go, Kevin Durant received the ball. He tucked it under his arm non-chalontly, scoping out his move to nail the go-ahead three. These moments aren’t new to him therefore they aren’t new to the thousands of fans watching. His go-to move is so predictable; the right-to-left crossover into a step-back jumper. The anticipation of the move was more captivating than the actual move itself that swished through the net with 3.9 seconds to go; it was just so predictable.
Rick Adelman huddled his team after the shot. Just like OKC’s huddle, everyone in the building knew who the play was being drawn up for. Kevin Love has written his own list of heroic moments this season just like Durant. Love gets criticized because his game has no flash, just straight brawn and brash. That’s what makes his heroic moments just all the more impressive and beguiling because they’re not designed for his type of player to excel in.
Love caught the inbounds after OKC scrambled the original play. He turned and recognized he had the smaller Russell Westbrook defending him and launched an off-balanced, contested three from the left wing. If anyone didn’t know, that’s his money spot. Kobe has the high post, Durant has the straight-on jumper, and Love has elbow three. The shot fluttered through the net with just one second to go, and after the original “He did it! He did it!” feeling, you couldn’t help but notice that one second was a lot of time, probably too much time to give OKC a final shot to win it.
The teams lined up for one more go at the win in regulation, but after the two giants just went blow for blow, OKC failed to get Durant a good look and he heaved up a prayer that wasn’t even close to being answered. The only way to settle this bout was an overtime period.
No, they’re gonna need two overtimes, actually.
The first overtime was just like the fourth quarter. It was Kevin v Kevin; everyone else were just pawns while the real knights went to work. But it was the second overtime that made the difference. Durant needed help and so did Love. The one who stepped up? Westbrook, of course. Westbrook took matters into his own hands in the second overtime’s final minutes, by bruising the combined backcourt’s efforts of Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. It all started at the beginning of the that overtime when Westbrook drove the lane, lept into the body of Wayne Ellington and banked a wicked gunshot-of-a-layup with the foul. The lead was three, and OKC never looked back.
But it was the pound-for-pound title fight between Love and Durant that turned this game into a national championship boxing bout. The two players respectably lead very young teams into battle against some of the most experienced teams and coaches in the league, but when you have a chance to pair the no-quit, full-throttle competitors against one another, then fireworks are bound for sky high. Love and Durant live for these types of moments that only the NBA can concoct. After Love his the tying three with one second left, Durant sat in his huddle with an ear-to-ear grin on his face thinking “This guy has no quit. Well, me neither.” They welcome the competitive nature of division tilts such as this one, which made the emotions feel so real even through the television.
As mentioned earlier, Love doesn’t have a flashy game, according to critics, but he’s become one of the most clutch fourth quarter players in all the NBA. He’s hitting the big shots when he needs to most by finding his spots on the floor, just as he did last night. It reminds you of Kobe Bryant, who’s game is all mental toughness and flash. But the way Love pairs his unorthodox style of basketball with a burning competitiveness is so unlike any player we’ve seen before. I vote to end calling his game “not flashy” because, otherwise, he’s just gonna get angry and more teams like the OKC Thunder are going to feel his titanic wrath.
Next up the Wolves come home, finally. They take on Denver on Sunday afternoon at the Target Center. This game ought to give the Wolves a full-head of momentum because the season’s end is nearing and the playoffs continue to fizzle out of our sight.