The Oklahoma City Thunder look to follow up an improbable victory with another triumph when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
Oklahoma City was just more than a second from losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night before big man Steven Adams became a quarterback and Dennis Schroder morphed into a wide receiver to combine for a basket that forced overtime. The Thunder then dominated the extra session for a 139-127 victory.
“We knew once we made the shot, we had a lot more work to do, and we were willing to do whatever it took to win,” Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said afterward.
The craziness began at the 1.1-second mark when Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns went to the free throw line for two shots with his club leading by two points.
It got more wild after Towns missed the first free throw. The Timberwolves subbed in forward Jordan Bell, who entered with his uniform untucked.
Thunder point guard Chris Paul noticed the violation and pointed it out to official Scott Foster, who called a delay of game warning. Since it was Minnesota’s second such infraction of the game, Oklahoma City was awarded a technical free throw and forward Danilo Gallinari made the shot to pull the Thunder to within one.
Towns then was under orders to miss his second free throw with Oklahoma City out of timeouts. Instead, the ball bounced off the rim and the backboard and went through the hoop for a 122-120 Minnesota lead.
Adams quickly retrieved the ball, wound up and tossed a superb length-of-the-court heave. Schroder had taken off in a sprint and hauled in the throw, despite the coverage of Timberwolves point guard Jeff Teague, and banked in the tying basket as time expired.
“We had it in practice a couple of times,” Schroder said afterward of the play. “I mean Steve-O, he’s a helluva passer. We’re just communicating well defensively and offensively.”
The Thunder outscored Minnesota 17-5 in overtime to wrap up their third win in the past four games.
Another unique aspect of the game was that Oklahoma City became the first team to have five players score 20 or more points in an NBA game since 2004. Paul scored 30, Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 29, Schroder tallied 25, Adams added 22 and Gallinari had 21.
“It speaks more to their unselfishness as a group,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of the feat. “We’ve got really good guys that try to play the right way, try to play together, and they try to move the ball. It wasn’t a huge assist night for us but the moving the ball, the attacking and the playing downhill was good for us.”
Portland’s Friday night wasn’t anywhere near as fun as it was routed 136-113 by the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.
Making the setback more demoralizing was the loss of swingman Rodney Hood, who is done for the season after tearing his left Achilles tendon.
The injury happened after Hood collected a rebound. He landed and then fell to the ground and immediately reached for his lower left leg.
“It’s tough,” Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said afterward. “You hate to see injuries in the league, period, but you hate to see one of your teammates go down with an injury like that, especially a starter and somebody that’s a really good person, having a great season, fitting in really well with our team and a big part of what we do.
“You feel for him personally more than anything. Just sad to see that happen to him.”
Hood averaged 11 points and 3.4 rebounds in 21 games (all starts) this season. He was in the process of establishing career highs for field-goal percentage (50.6) and 3-point accuracy (49.3).
Portland forward Carmelo Anthony termed the injury as “sad” and “unfortunate,” but the veteran is well aware the team needs to put the setback aside immediately.
“We don’t have a choice but to move forward,” Anthony said. “I think these are times where the troops got to rally now. Everybody come together, everybody rely on one another. It’s going to be hard to replace that, what he was able to bring to this team, what he was able to do, but it’s going to take multiple people to kind of contribute to what we’re trying to do.”
The Trail Blazers are 2-0 against the Thunder this season. Portland won 102-99 in Oklahoma City on Oct. 30 and prevailed 136-119 at home on Nov. 27.
–Field Level Media