The Oklahoma City Thunder played host to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Ford Center, just less than a week since their last meeting. Last Sunday, the game between the two went down to the wire, with Oklahoma City pulling off a 109-107 road win. After their trip to Minnesota, OKC dropped their next two games and Kevin Durant’s streak of consecutive games with 25 or more points was stopped. So when the Thunder took the court against the T-Wolves on Friday, they looked to get out of their mini-slump and get back on the path to victory.
In the first quarter, the game started as an evenly matched contest and when head coach Scott Brooks called a timeout at the 6:11 mark, the scoreboard read 15-14 in favor of the home team. Whatever Brooks and the staff said in the huddle must have made an impact, because OKC went on a 15-5 run to close out the quarter and head into the second with the 30-19 advantage.
James Harden started the second quarter with his cold hand, missing a layup, one of two free throws and a jumper before being pulled from the lineup. Both teams had trouble finding the back of the net, with missed shots in abundance for everyone who was on the court for the second. But by the six-minute mark, Minnesota had closed the gap and trailed by only three, with the Thunder holding the slim 36-33 lead. This would prove to be the closest point in the game, as after a timeout Oklahoma City began to stretch the lead and the Timberwolves started to stumble. After a Nenad Krstic 17-foot jumper fell at the halftime buzzer, OKC held the 55-41 lead.
Below: more recapping, analysis, awards
The second half was dominated by the home team, who stretched the lead to as many as 25 points before the final whistle saw the scoreboard stop with a 109-92 win for the Thunder. Oklahoma City outscored Minnesota in the first three quarters (30-19, 25-22, 29-24) to keep that lead steadily growing throughout the game before settling for the 17-point victory.
Though the game sounds like a dominant performance, from my Loud City perch it seemed less than stellar, especially in the first half. There was a multitude of missed shots and rebounding opportunities that were not taken advantage of for Oklahoma City. The final numbers show a good game on the whole, with the Thunder shooting 54.3 percent from the field and outrebounding Minnesota 47-43.
But if you drill deeper, you see some points that might not be so positive coming out of the game. The Timberwolves had 14 offensive rebounds, therefore 14 opportunities for second-chance points. If they weren’t shooting at a low 40.7 percent on the night, perhaps more of those opportunities could have been converted into scores. On the flip side, any time an NBA defense can hold their opponent to 37-of-91 shooting like Oklahoma City did, there is a good chance that this will make up for slow first half play and allow for the Thunder to hit their stride in the second rather than worry about playing from behind.
There was little doubt as the clock struck zeros on Friday that Russell Westbrook was the night’s "wonder". Westbrook ended the contest with 18 points, 15 assists and 8 rebounds in his 33 minutes, only committing two turnovers in his time at the point. His near triple-double came after shooting 7-of-11 from the field and playing solid defense – chipping in for two of the team’s five steals as well. The accolades for Westbrook continued after the game, namely from teammate Kevin Durant. According the ESPN, Durant raved, "He's been like an MVP. A lot of people talk about me myself, but I think he's been the best player on our team, the guy that's the catalyst for our offense and defense. He's been keeping everybody involved and also making shots himself. He's putting a lot of pressure on the defense, man, and he's been playing phenomenal."
Thunder Down Under
The "down under" against Minnesota goes to "The Magnificent Seven". Oklahoma City had seven players score in double-figures, all five starters – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic; along with 14 points from Serge Ibaka and 10 from Nick Collison off the bench. It is always a rare treat to see a game in which practically everyone that played good minutes also gets good points. If you need just one name to etch on the Down Under trophy go with Ibaka, who’s 14 points mark his career-high.
As the movie tagline says, they were seven – and they fought like seven hundred. OK, seven hundred might be a stretch, but every last point from each man was much needed to propel the Thunder to the win and reverse their two game slide. *And if you are too young or too cool to have not seen the 1960 star-studded western flick, you should check it out!
It’s always tough to be critical after a win, but the "blunder" play goes to rookie guard James Harden. Harden had a tough shooting night, going 2-of-9 from the field and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc on Friday. To add to his shooting woes, Harden was only 40 percent from the charity stripe as well (2-of-5) in his 18 minutes on the court.
The obvious "plunders" against the Thunder were the 19 points and eight boards of second year player Kevin Love. Love has been on a tear of late including double-doubles in now three of his last four games. Love was the Timberwolves scoring leader off the bench and was only passed in the rebound category by center Darko Milicic, a recent addition to the T-Wolves roster by way of a New York Knicks trade.
Up next for Oklahoma City is another home game on Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. (cst) against the Toronto Raptors in which Rumble the Bison will be hosting a mascot party – whatever that might be.
Until then - wear blue, be proud, cheer loud and Thunder Up!