Durant keys late rally

San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 12) being guarded closely by Oklahoma's Kevin Durant. Aldridge, in his first game since moving from the Portland Trail Blazers, was held to 11 points, while Durant notched 22 points.
San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 12) being guarded closely by Oklahoma's Kevin Durant. Aldridge, in his first game since moving from the Portland Trail Blazers, was held to 11 points, while Durant notched 22 points.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Returning from surgery, forward's 7pts in last 5min lift Thunder to victory against Spurs

OKLAHOMA CITY • In his first National Basketball Association game back since season-ending surgery on his right foot last season, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant did not look his normal self for 31/2 quarters on Wednesday.

But when his team needed him most, the former Most Valuable Player remembered who he was.

Durant scored seven of his 22 points in the final five minutes, helping the Thunder to a 112-106 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"The thing I was most pleased about with Kevin, there was a lot of emotion in coming back from injury and the fact he really kept his composure all the way through," said Thunder coach Billy Donovan after winning his debut.

Guard Russell Westbrook scored 33 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field and collected 10 assists in the Thunder's season opener.

Forward Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 32 points and eight rebounds.

In his first game with San Antonio, forward LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 11 points.

Spurs' other forwards Tim Duncan and David West each posted eight points.

"It will come," West said of the title favourites' opening win.

"We had a seven-point lead in the fourth. Had a couple of miscues. If we execute, maybe seven goes to 11. It's going to be a process."

With 4min 20sec left in the game, Durant drained a three-pointer to put the Thunder, who just missed the play-offs last season, up 99-97 before Leonard sank two free throws to tie the score.

Durant then made two free throws before Spurs forward Danny Green popped in a jumper. Durant could not answer the next time down the court, and guard Tony Parker scored to give San Antonio the lead.

Oklahoma guard Dion Waiters then sank back-to-back buckets to put the Thunder up 105-103.

After Leonard came up short on a jumper, Westbrook hit a three-pointer as time was running down on the shot clock.

Leonard came back with a three-point play to cut the Thunder's lead to two.

Westbrook tried to answer, but his shot was off, and the Spurs got the ball with 21 seconds left.

The Spurs put the ball in Green's hand for a three-pointer at the top of the key.

Thunder centre Steven Adams contested the shot, which came up short.

Oklahoma got the rebound, Durant was fouled, and he nailed both free throws to put the game away.

"It felt good, man," the 27-year-old said after his first regular-season game since February.

"I had some in-and-out looks tonight. My looks felt great but to hit that one was big for our team.

"My team-mates trust me and I was struggling shooting the basketball, but they stuck with me."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'DURANT KEYS LATE RALLY'. Print Edition | Subscribe