Durant racks up the points on return
KEVIN Durant, the National Basketball Association's Most Valuable Player (MVP), scored 44 points upon his return after missing six games, powering the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 137-134 overtime win over visiting Phoenix on Wednesday.
Durant had been sidelined by a sprained right ankle suffered in a loss two weeks ago at Golden State.
The star playmaker missed the Thunder's first 17 games of the season following surgery on his right foot, but Oklahoma City have gone 8-2 with Durant in the line-up and improved to 16-17 this season with the victory.
Durant, who also contributed a game-high 10 rebounds and team-best seven assists, connected on 13 of 23 shots from the field, including six of 11 from three-point range, and made all 12 of his free-throw attempts, four of them in overtime.
Russell Westbrook added 20 points and Serge Ibaka added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Thunder. Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 29 points and a game-high eight assists while Markieff Morris added 25 points for Phoenix, who fell to 18-16.
In San Antonio, Manu Ginobili sank the last of his 26 points on a layup with 24sec remaining in overtime to give San Antonio a 95-93 victory over New Orleans.
NBA champions San Antonio lost seven of their previous nine games, including a defeat at the hands of the Pelicans last Friday. They improved to 20-14 while the Pelicans fell to 16-16.
New Orleans took an 84-82 lead on a slam dunk by Anthony Davis with 0.7sec remaining in the fourth quarter.
But when Boris Diaw launched an inbound pass to Spurs star Tim Duncan near the rim, the Pelicans' Omer Asik inadvertently tipped the ball into his own team's basket at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Duncan scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spurs, while Argentina's Ginobili came off the bench to spark the victory.
In Cleveland, Brandon Knight scored 26 points and the Milwaukee Bucks routed Cleveland 96-80 as Cavaliers stars LeBron James and Kevin Love sat out with injuries.
James, a four-time NBA MVP, missed his second game in a row with a sore left knee while Love was sidelined by back spasms.
Milwaukee's O. J. Mayo came off the bench to score 15 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Bucks, who improved to 17-6 with their first win in four games.
The Cavaliers, who managed only three of 19 shots in the third quarter, fell behind 71-54 entering the final period and the Bucks pulled ahead by as many as 22 in the closing minutes.
"I thought we got off to a good start on the road, then they came back a little bit in the second," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "We came out after half-time getting stops and that was big."
Australian guard Kyrie Irving, in only his second game back from injury for the Cavaliers, scored 25 points to lead Cleveland, who also had 10 points and 13 rebounds from Tristan Thompson in a third consecutive loss.
"We certainly fought," Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. "Obviously we are short-handed. That is what happened."