That was close. Really close. Too close for comfort. But for the second time in three games, the Thunder have come away with a close victory, and all that matters is the W. Lesser teams would collapse, but no matter what way you slice it, the Thunder are well on their way to 30 wins before the month of January is over. Let's hit the recap.
In the first quarter, the Thunder and Timberwolves came out with guns blazing. The Thunder were focusing on perimeter scoring, and were having some success. But the Timberwolves were taking advantage of sloppy ball handing on the perimeter and getting some easy transition buckets. This opened up the paint for the Timberwolves later in the quarter, allowing them to use quick cuts to the basket for easy points. But they were still making stupid errors, allowing a relatively stagnant Thunder offense to stay on top by getting fouled. Unfortunately, the Thunder's stagnant offense caught up to them, and the Timberwolves were quick to capitalize on a couple of bad turnovers, taking the lead heading into the second.
The second quarter really didn't follow a whole lot of themes. The Timberwolves would, at times, look like a perfect offensive machine. But, at other times, they'd look like a pickup team playing at your local gym. One play would be a perfect three or unguarded layup, and the next would be a shot clock violation, turnover, or highly contested brick. This two-faced style of play allowed the Thunder to continue to stay in the game, despite their continually unimpressive offensive play. They were continually stopped in the lane, and their outside shots weren't falling with first quarter ease.
Below: The Third and Fourth Quarters, OT, Awards!
The frantic pace of the first quarter was re-ignited in the third, but the Timberwolves reaped the rewards. Michael Beasley got hot, and they found baskets easily inside against the relatively weak defensive pairing of Krstic and Green. On the other end, Krstic missed three shots he normally makes, and the team was really cold from the outside. But the tables were quickly turned, as the Timberwolves started to turn the ball over again. The Wolves then put in their second unit, and they proceeded to stink it up while the Thunder caught up with their single-digit lead. The quarter was capitalized by a open, long-range KD three, which put the Thunder up by four heading into the fourth.
The Timberwolves couldn't recover from that in the early goings of the fourth. Kevin Durant was lighting them up, and they couldn't get any offense going. But eventually, a Luke Ridnour three point play and a Kevin Love three put them on the high side of the game. From then on, it was an absolute slugfest, with baskets being traded like they were on the stock exchange. It came down to the Timberwolves having a 1 point lead and the Thunder having possession with the opportunity to trade the two for one with 40 seconds to go. Off of the pick from Durant, Westbrook scored a easy layup over two defenders with 26.9 seconds to go, guaranteeing another possession.
But then, Luke Ridnour responded. With an Isiah Thomas like move, he split two defenders to hit a prayer of a reverse layup, and almost drew the foul. Thunder ball, 19.2 seconds to go. If you're getting deja vu, you're not alone. This time, the Thunder went for the shot immediately, which was a well-contested stop and pop by Durant. It rimmed out, and Beasley got the rebound. He was immediately fouled, but the Thunder had one to give, so Ridnour was fouled on the next inbounds play and immediately sent to the line.
Luckily, he choked. The first shot clanked off of the back of the rim. The next went in, but the Thunder had the ball with 12.2 seconds to go and only a 2 point deficit to overcome. The ball was inbounded. And after about 4 passes that were all close calls, the ball landed in the hands of Jeff Green, who hit a running teardrop layup over two Timberwolves defenders. Tie game, 4.3 seconds to go.
The Timberwolves called a timeout to advance the ball. It goes in to Love, who is immediately double-teamed by Ibaka and Westbrook. Love sees the open man on the baseline, so Westbrook falls back. With Love one on one with Ibaka, everyone hold their breath. He turns for a jump hook. It flies up, falls into the rim, but rolls out. Durant grabs the rebound, and the game goes into overtime.
In overtime, the scoring battle resumed. The Thunder were scoring with their trademark mid-range jumpers, and the Timberwolves were banging it down low. A couple Timberwolves turnovers gave the Thunder a two possession lead, but it was quickly lessened back to a two point lead.
As time ticked below the two minute mark, the game had been fought to a stalemate. Neither team could score, and turnovers were being committed left and right. But a watershed moment came when Thabo Sefolosha got a steal. He ran down the floor for some transition points, but he was called for a charging foul as he ran over Michael Beasley. The Thunder were outraged, but it was a fair call, based on the fact that the refs were calling weak and unset charges all game. The Timberwolves used this to their advantage, and Michael Beasley hit a lucky and highly-contested jumper. This tied the game at 116 with 46.3 to go.
And here comes Durant. Isolation play, tough jumper hit. Tied his career high of 47, put the Thunder up by 1 with 28.3 seconds to go. Craziness ensued. Collison was called for a foul immediately, as the Thunder had one to give. Then, the ball was inbounded again. Beasley was given an isolation play with Green on the left baseline. He pulled up for a jumper, and the ball clanked. Love skillfully got a rebound, but his putback sailed high over the rim. Then, Green appeared to get the rebound. No wait, Collison had it. Then Beasley appeared to have it. Did Sefolosha or Westbrook have it? Grant Long screamed "Get on the floor!" as he's fond of doing, and it appears that Beasley was fouled while in possession of the ball. While all of this went on, Love tried to get his own rebound. He jumped for the rebound, but did do in a leaning fashion, so he would have no support when he fell. He missed the rebound, and fell so that his weight was supported by Nick Collison. Nick Collison proceeded to do a chicken dance while trying to grab the ball, causing Love to slam into the floor, back first. Love wasn't seriously hurt, but it was quite funny.
Beasley at the line, 7.6 seconds to go. First one, swish. Second one, bad clank. Westbrook and Green tripped over each other while trying to get the rebound though, so it fell into the hands of Brewer. He immediately dished it to Ridnour sitting on the three point line. He shot it through both Sefolosha and Westbrook, who were skying for the block. The shot was up, and it went over the rim. Durant was on the far side, and he spiked the ball downcourt. It nearly went out of bounds, but Westbrook used some cat-like skills to save the ball, and time expired. The Thunder stole a game in Minnesota by a mere point, and they didn't even need a last second shot to do it. This game won't be one that's remembered when going through the best moments of Durant's career, but it stands as a testament to his and the team's clutch play.
Thunder Wonder: Do I Have to Say His Name?, Career High 47 Points, Career High 18 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals, 2 Blocks
Thunder Down Under: Jeff Green, 19 Points, 8 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Clutch Shot in Regulation
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook. 8 Turnovers? Comeon, man. Could have easily been 10 had it not been for his reflexes. Needs to get to better spaces in the backcourt, and stop making senseless drives to the basket.
Thunder Plunderer: Kevin Love, 31 Points, 21 Rebounds, 2 Assists.
Next Game: Versus the Washington Wizards, Friday, January 28th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.