Without Love, Pekovic and Brewer, Wolves can't overcome Durant, OKC
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder won for the 12th time in their last 13 games with a 106-97 victory over a Minnesota Timberwolves team without Kevin Love and two other starters.
Reggie Jackson added 20 points and nine assists for Oklahoma City, which became the NBA's first team this season to 40 wins. The Thunder won for the ninth straight time at home against Minnesota, which entered the game 3 1/2 games behind Dallas in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot from the Western Conference.
The Thunder have won eight straight home games and are 15-1 this season against Western Conference foes at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Ricky Rubio had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Minnesota.
Love, an All-Star forward, sat out with a stiff neck after taking a hard fall Tuesday in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Center Nikola Pecovic (ankle injury) and forward Corey Brewer (family leave) also didn't play.
Durant continued his strong play against the Timberwolves. He had a triple-double in a home win over the Timberwolves on Dec. 1 and scored 48 points in a win at Minnesota on Jan. 4 before his outburst Wednesday.
The score was tied in the closing seconds of the third quarter when Oklahoma City's Derek Fisher attempted a 3-pointer from the corner that appeared to be long, but Minnesota's Gorgui Dieng accidentally tapped it into the basket to give the Thunder an 80-77 lead.
Jeremy Lamb opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer to push Oklahoma City's lead to six points. The Thunder finished off the 16-4 run with a dunk by Lamb with 7:17 left that made it 93-81, but Oklahoma City suddenly went cold from the field.
Durant was called for a technical foul with 4:39 left after protesting a no-call, but Rubio missed the ensuing free throw, leaving the score at 93-86. Minnesota pulled within 95-89 after a 3-pointer by Robbie Hummel with 3:45 left, but the Timberwolves came no closer.
Thabo Sefolosha, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts, made one from the corner with 1:43 left to extend the Thunder's lead to 100-90 and Minnesota came no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
The Timberwolves led by as many as six points in the second quarter, but Oklahoma City took a 56-54 lead after Durant swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Durant had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists by halftime.
Dante Cunningham added 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting for Minnesota. Fisher scored 13 points and Ibaka added 14 and seven rebounds for the Thunder.© The Associated Press