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Thunder turn around, spy lean Timberwolves; Update - Kevin Durant out with left toe injury

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Nikola Pekovic is back, and Mo Williams can still go for over 50. Is there bark to the Timberwolves' bite?

A wild Andrew Wiggins appears, and a future superstar rivalry is born.
A wild Andrew Wiggins appears, and a future superstar rivalry is born.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports


Kevin Durant has been deactivated for tonight's game vs the Timberwolves due to an injury to his left toe, per Royce Young:


Though the Timberwolves are 7-36 right now, they certainly won't be playing like it tonight. Minnesota is actually 2-5 over their last seven games, and just recently got Nikola Pekovic back from injury. I'm not saying that the Timberwolves are worldbeaters, but they certainly have what it takes to compete tonight should things fall their way.

What would it take for a Minnesota victory?

  • Well, Mo Williams could randomly heat up. Though Williams isn't the scorer he used to be, the Timberwolves are giving him as many possessions as he wants. So if Williams happens to be hot from the field, he could definitely give the Thunder some trouble. I mean, he scored 52 points against the Pacers. It was a franchise record! If the Thunder want to contain him, they should just make sure to hedge high on screens and deny the shot.
  • The Timberwolves have to win the rebounding battle. Minnesota is a bigger team without a lot of ballhandling, so they're bound to turn the ball over all the time. With the Thunder's steal trio of Westbrook, Waiters, and Morrow, I doubt that trend will change. This means Minnesota must use their size to win the battle of the boards, which is always tough against OKC. The Thunder are the league's second best team when it comes to rebounding differential, which is very telling when you consider that OKC's bigs haven't been injured all year.
  • Pekovic must have a good game. Historically, Pekovic has torn up the Thunder's interior of Perkins and Ibaka. But it must be said that he was always doing this next to Kevin Love. Given that Pekovic now plays with the nearly offenseless Gorgui Dieng, it will be considerably harder for him to score. Pekovic is a fundamentally sound big that relies on footwork, and the Thunder are generally able to shut those types of players down.
  • Wiggins could definitely be an X-Factor as well. So far this season, he's scored 20 points or more on 14 separate occasions. But when the Thunder and Timberwolves last met, Wiggins wasn't able to get very much on KD at all. Wiggins definitely flourished a bit more when he faced the Thunder's bench in the later stages of the game, and really wasn't a huge factor overall. Tonight, if Saunders stays true to his rotations, Wiggins will start at shooting guard and match up with Andre Roberson. That might give Wiggins a bit more room to work and shoot, even when you consider that Roberson is generally a better defender than KD.
  • SOMEONE on the bench has to score. Outside of the starting five, this team is really depleted. Robbie Hummel was injured during the Timberwolves' last game, so there's no telling whom Minnesota goes to tonight. Rookie PG Zach LaVine has the NBA body without the NBA shot, and will only get spot minutes behind Mo Williams. Troy Daniels, the team's backup SG, is in the same boat. Canis Hoopus believes that Chase Budinger and Glenn Robinson III will soak up the minutes left behind by Hummel, but they won't do much more than space the floor. There's always the possibility of the Timberwolves rolling out Anthony Bennett or Miroslav Raduljica, but Bennett appears to have no role with Pekovic on the team, and Raduljica has never seen the floor.

Anyway, I'm expecting tonight's game to still be competitive in the fourth quarter. The Thunder are definitely fatigued from their long East Coast road trip, having flown in from Cleveland last night. I've liked what I've seen from them, and I believe history is on their side, but I'm having a hard time seeing OKC scoring very easily on Pekovic and Dieng. We're going to have to wait for a few steals or some hot shooting if we want to see the Thunder go on a big run. Both of those things are notoriously hard to do when fatigued, so I could see this game being a real stinker.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Minnesota Timberwolves 99.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!

2014-15 NBA Season Game 45
(Lost 4)

(Lost 2)
January 26th, 2015
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network North
Injury Report:  Mitch McGary, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Robbie Hummel (Out)
This Season's Matchups: Dec 12 (W 111-92)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Mo Williams
Andre Roberson SG Andrew Wiggins
Kevin Durant SF Thaddeus Young
Serge Ibaka PF Gorgui Dieng
Steven Adams C Nikola Pekovic