Durant at PF the difference down the stretch

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Durant at PF the difference down the stretch

Scott Brooks said Thursday night was the most hes used a lineup with Kevin Durant at power forward this season. Based on the results, hes likely to increase how often he uses it the rest of the year.

Durant, who was held in check for his standards most of the night, scored eight of his 24 points in the final three and a half minutes while playing power forward in the Thunders 97-91 victory over the Bulls.

Durant, on the court with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha and center Serge Ibaka, broke an 85-all tie with an impressive fadeaway jump shot over Luol Deng.

Rip Hamilton would answer with a shot clock-beating jumper on his own on the other end, but the scorer-turned-power forward Durant was just getting started.

The two-time reigning scoring champion added a floater off the right baseline and a second fadeaway off a screen that extended Thunder leads in the final two minutes. He then sealed the game with two free throw makes and 13 seconds left, putting the Thunder up 95-91.

Durant said before Thursdays game that he is open to playing power forward in a smaller lineup, similar to what Miamis LeBron James and New Yorks Carmelo Anthony have done this season. He said he understands in an ever-changing NBA, that set positions are out, and versatility is in.

I think I can handle the ball, I think I can pass and I can rebound and initiate the offense. But whatever coach wants me to do.

Down the stretch, Scott Brooks needed his All-Star to score.

I thought tonight he was more aggressive as the game went on, and there are some nights its gonna be like that, Brooks said. But 19 shots is where I like him to be up there, and also continue to play-make.

Durant continued to show why hes becoming a complete playmaker, as opposed to seasons past when he was known solely as a scorer. He finished with three steals and three blocks defensively, and while he only had one assist tonight he is still averaging a career-best 4.8 per game.

The Bulls countered Durants move to power forward by sticking with Deng, who had held Durant in check most of the night. That meant Joakim Noah guarding Ibaka and a mismatch with Taj Gibson on Sefolosha, who assisted Durants final basket.

It is a tough matchup for a lot of teams and we definitely do use that throughout the game and some moment in a game that we throw it out there, Brooks said before the game, and Kevin likes it because teams have to make a tough decision.

The decision was to stay small against Durant, whose aggressiveness late proved too much for Deng and the Bulls. Deng did limit Durant to 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting before the final stretch run, which proved Durants pregame prediction of having his hands full with Deng true.

But Brooks explained that the last three minutes are what makes Durant who he is.

Thats what stars can do. They can have an average game and then the last 4-5 minutes, they can win the game, and I thought thats what he did tonight, Brooks said. Thats what makes him a special player and its well-deserved. The guy is one of the hardest workers Ive ever been around, hes an amazing teammate, hes a selfish guy and hes only 24 and hes only gonna get better.

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

In a season where the triple-double has become commonplace to the point of stat chasing in the effort to chase history, Dwyane Wade didn't mind snatching his own piece of turf.

In a game where teammate Jimmy Butler reached the feat for the first time this season, it would've been doubly satisfactory for Wade to achieve the fifth triple-double of his career.

One rebound away in the final seconds of the Bulls' 117-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the memo didn't reach Cristiano Felicio, who reached over Wade to grab a rebound, causing it to harmlessly fall out of bounds and ending Wade's chance at history.

After Wade finished with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes, he was asked if he "hated" Felicio for interrupting his moment.

"No hate. Just a strong dislike, though," said Wade with a wry smile. "You know how long it's been since I had a triple double? It's been a long time."

It's been six years, as his last triple-double came in the 2010-11 season with the Miami Heat, achieving the feat with a 22-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist performance against the then-Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 4, 2011.

Even more than the statistical feat was Wade's variety, as he grabbed seven rebounds in the decisive third-quarter run that broke the game open, hitting Butler and Bobby Portis for long touchdown passes that would've had Jay Cutler or whichever quarterback the Cleveland Browns are banking on next fall, blushing.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact it was on the second night of a back-to-back with the Bulls winning in overtime against the Phoenix Suns—a game where Wade turned it up late then threw it down over Alex Len in overtime.

"I think we just found our groove," Wade said. "We've had some injuries that have gone on but we're playing good basketball."

More pointedly, so is Wade, aided by him often finding Felicio for easy dunks on the pick and roll as they play second and fourth quarters together. 

Felicio was clearly bothered by his gaffe, which was made worse by the take-no-prisoners approach from Wade and Butler. When a member of foreign media approached him about an interview, Felicio said "you're not asking me about that last rebound, are you?"

Later in the evening, Felicio went to Twitter, posting "I did not know!!" in reference to Wade's night.

"I told him I didn't not even gonna act like I ain't mad at him. I'm very mad at him," said Wade with a laugh. "But he's all good. He said he didn't see me down there. So he took a shot at my height. It's cool. Jimmy had one. It would've been nice to have two triple doubles."

"I'm sure a stat would've came out that would've said, ‘Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are the first duo to get a triple-double on a back-to-back since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen', since they got every record around here."

He was close, although Jordan and Pippen didn't achieve their feat on a back-to-back but a random night in the 1988-89 season. Jordan scored 41 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Pippen had 15 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-121 overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We laugh about that often, but it's all good," Wade said. "I gotta work harder till I get another one one day."

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