During his All-Star Game MVP performance last week, Kevin Durant made the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., his personal playground, scoring at will with a barrage of jump shots and easy open-floor baskets.
The rims weren’t quite as kind early on during the Oklahoma City forward’s return trip, but he got reacquainted with them late and also got help from fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook to help the Thunder pull out a 105-102 victory over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.
Durant scored 38 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, and Westbrook added 29 points and 10 assists as Oklahoma City erased a 14-point deficit to battle back for the win.
Durant’s effort was two points better than his All-Star night and also included five 3-pointers and a 9-for-9 night at the free-throw line — all in a game-high 42 minutes of action. The Thunder’s win was their seventh straight, matching a streak from earlier in the season.
“I was so down on myself. I was really going down after the first quarter,” Durant said. “But my coaches and my teammates continued to encourage me and told me they believed in me. It just clicked for me, and I started to make a few shots and free throws.
“Once your teammates give you that confidence, no matter what you feel good, and I was able to make some shots.”
The Magic had a chance to send it to overtime, but Jason Richardson’s long 3-pointer bounced off the backboard at the buzzer.
It was a fitting culmination of a final 12 minutes for the Magic in which they went just 8 for 25 from the field. The Thunder, who struggled to find shots in the first half, finished 10 for 15 in the final period.
Dwight Howard scored 33 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead all five Magic starters in double figures.
“We have to be able to execute and get stops,” he said. “That’s the one thing we didn’t do well tonight in the fourth quarter. But it’s a good lesson for us.”
Suns 104, Timberwolves 95: Grant Hill scored 15 of his season-high 20 points in the second half and Phoenix pulled away at home, beating weary Minnesota.
Six players reached double figures for the Suns in their first game since the All-Star break. Steve Nash had 13 points and matched his season high with 17 assists. Marcin Gortat scored 17 for Phoenix in its ninth straight victory over the Timberwolves.
Kevin Love, who sat out the Timberwolves’ 104-85 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night because of flulike symptoms, scored 23 on 8-of-25 shooting. Luke Ridnour scored 15 for the T’wolves, who were playing for the third time in as many nights.
Minnesota was without J.J. Barea, who strained his right calf against the Lakers.
All five starters reached double figures for the Timberwolves, who shot 50 percent (21 of 42) in the first half but fell off afterward, hitting just 29 percent (13 of 44) the rest of the way. Love was 3 of 13 in the second half, 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter. Minnesota made 1 of 13 3-pointers. The Suns shot 53 percent.
The 39-year-old Hill, the league’s second-oldest player by one day behind Kurt Thomas, made four of five shots in a 10-point third quarter to lead the Suns’ comeback.
Shannon Brown scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half for Phoenix, while Channing Frye added 14 points and Jared Dudley 12.
The Timberwolves took the lead late in the first half and stayed ahead until a 13-2 run by the Suns late in the third quarter.
Love’s 3-pointer, the first by either team and the only one of the game for the T’wolves, put Minnesota ahead 70-64 with 5:06 to play in the quarter. But Frye’s three ignited the 13-3 Suns’ surge. Nikola Pekovic’s rebound basket made it 72-67, then Phoenix scored the next 10. Gortat blocked Derrick Williams’ shot, and Brown’s emphatic breakaway dunk put the Suns ahead for good 73-72 with 2:02 left in the third.