When Russell Westbrook banked in a buzzer-beater from just short of half-court, Kevin Durant called the shot 80 percent luck and only 20 percent skill.
Whatever the case, it was just what the Oklahoma City Thunder needed.
Westbrook banked in the circus shot during a rough-and-tumble 27-point outing, Durant added a season-high 26 points and the Thunder beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-91 on Sunday night for their fourth straight victory.
“He busted the game open for us,” Durant said. “They had hit some shots and we had missed a lot going into the fourth, and that kind of broke their back a little bit.”
Westbrook, a career 29-percent shooter from 3-point range, had made just 6 of 24 behind the arc to start the season and coach Scott Brooks suggested before the game that he needed to start making more if he was going to keep taking so many.
Westbrook may have temporarily extinguished that talk with a few well-timed connections, the first one coming as he ran along the sideline and banked in a desperation shot at the end of the third quarter.
The Cavs had closed a 13-point deficit down to three before he hit the buzzer-beater and then started the fourth quarter with two much more routine 3-pointers.
“The one at the end of the quarter kind of was a heave, but the other two were good passes from Eric (Maynor) and I just knocked them down,” Westbrook said.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott said he had instructed his players to use the team’s foul to give after Daniel Gibson’s three free throws cut the deficit to 76-73 with 2.7 seconds left. They didn’t, and Westbrook made the pivotal play of the game.
“We wanted to take the foul once they caught it and started dribbling up the court. (Gibson) said he just thought he was going to throw up a bad shot,” Scott said. “I told him, `That’s why we wanted you to foul him before he got to half court.“’
Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 20 points, Alonzo Gee chipped in 18 points and Gibson scored 16 off the bench.