CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 35 points, finding his shooting touch after a rough start, and Serge Ibaka had 16 as the Oklahoma City Thunder held off a furious Cleveland comeback for a 102-95 win over the injury-riddled Cavaliers on Thursday night.
Durant missed five of his first six shots, but the NBA’s top scorer finally got it going. He has scored 25 or more in 33 straight games – the league’s second-longest streak since Michael Jordan did it 40 consecutive times (1986-87).
With their 50th win, the Thunder, who let a 24-point lead dwindle to five in the fourth, moved within 1 1/2 games of San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City played without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who was resting his surgically repaired knee.
Dion Waiters scored 30 for the Cavs. Down 95-71 with 6:34 left, Cleveland used a 21-2 run to pull within 97-92 with 1:22 left. But Durant came off the bench and made five free throws in the final 33 seconds
Cleveland played without injured star guard Kyrie Irving (strained biceps) and forward Luol Deng (sprained ankle).
Durant’s performance came two nights after LeBron James dropped 43 points on Cleveland, which lost its season-high fourth straight at home and have seen its playoff chances disappear.
Durant added 11 rebounds and six assists, his biggest to Ibaka for a dunk with 1:54 left after the Cavs had closed within eight.
With the Thunder ahead by 17 entering the fourth, Durant put on his warm-ups thinking his night was over. Oklahoma City’s reserves were having their way with the Cavs, but Cleveland quickly reeled off 11 points in a row, forcing Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks to bring Durant back in with 3:34 left.
Waiters’ steal and layup got Cleveland within five, but the Thunder made sure the ball went to Durant, who then put it away at the line. But not before the Thunder had their nerves frayed.
Durant scored 30 in the first 32 minutes, but only after a very un-Durant-like beginning.
Reggie Jackson started for Westbrook and added 13 points. Derek Fisher had 12 and Jeremy Lamb 10.
Spencer Hawes scored 20 the Cavs.
With Deng, Cleveland’s top wing defender, out and down to just nine dressed players, Cavs coach Mike Brown knew his team would struggle to handle the multifaceted Durant. And when Alonzo Gee picked up his second personal foul less than two minutes into the game, Brown brought in pesky guard Matthew Dellavedova to guard the league’s leading scorer.
Dellavedova, generously listed at 6-foot-4, did all he could to pester Durant and it worked – for a while.
Durant started 1-of-6 from the field and grew more and more agitated with every missed shot. Late in the first quarter, Durant, who had complained to the officials about not getting a call on a drive, grabbed an offensive rebound, dunked in frustration and got called for a technical.
The moment fired up Durant, who heated up in the second quarter and made all five shots, including a 20-foot jumper at the horn to give the Thunder a 56-46 lead.
Oklahoma City closed the quarter with an 11-2 run, highlighted by Durant’s alley-oop dunk and Lamb’s 3-pointer.
Durant opened the third by knocking down a 31-foot 3-pointer and his 3 with 6:09 left gave him 27 points, moving him closer to matching Jordan’s mark.
Durant had four assists, accounting for 20 of OKC’s 29 points -in the third when the Thunder pushed its lead to 17.
NOTES: Brooks has been impressed with Caron Butler, who has played in eight games since signing with Oklahoma City on March 1. Scott said Butler is tough, experienced and fearless. “He can make shots and he’s not afraid to take shots,” Brooks said. “We like that.” … OKC center Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) missed his 12th consecutive game and G Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain) sat out his ninth straight. … Cavs coach Mike Brown boycotted filling out an NCAA bracket because Butler, where his son Elijah plays, didn’t make the field. “It’s my own protest,” Brown joked. “I’m loyal.”