The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 92-84. It was the first game home after a withering road trip for the Thunder that saw them lose yesterday in Cleveland. The effects showed themselves early and often, as the OKC outside shooting was once again atrocious, and Russell Westbrook once again struggled to a poor shooting night. Overall the team struggled to a 42% shooting night against a bad team, with only 4-20 from 3-point range.
To the Thunder's benefit, their defense was solid and the Timberwolves are...well, let's just say they're trying in a haphazard sort of way. The Thunder defense held them to only 56 points through 3 quarters, led in large part by the interior defense of Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka (remember him?) and Kendrick Perkins. And that really is and should be enough in a game like this, where it's the 2nd night of a back to back, against a poor offensive team, while missing your main offensive weapon. Play good defense, and the rest works itself out.
The Thunder were led by Serge Ibaka's 13 points, 19 rebounds, and only three 3-point attempts. Off the bench, Reggie Jackson looked to be regaining some aggressiveness, finishing with 14 points, 2 assists, and 3 steals. The Wolves were led by rookie Andrew Wiggins, who finished with a game-high 23 points and woah boy would he make so much more sense in Cleveland right about now.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Aside from getting freaked out again at Durant's precious feet and Westbrook's strange assault at the wrong part of the rim, what I liked most was a renewed sense of aggression on offense. Twenty 3's is probably still too many, but at the very least they were being taken by the right people, and still finished with 44 points in the paint.
What is probably most promising in such a forgettable 2.5 hours is that the Thunder bench finally played together and they played aggressively. Dion Waiters and Reggie Jackson have had an uneasy on-the-court relationship since Waiters showed up, but they showed tonight that there is something there if they are willing to work together. Jackson helped set up a critical corner-3 for Waiters, and Waiters returned the favor by leading Jackson on a perfect alley-oop play. I would like to know where Anthony Morrow's 3-point shot went to, but at the very least he's staying aggressive by working for better shots.
Special shoutout to Serge Ibaka, who finally looked like himself instead of a modern day incarnation of Antoine Walker. Ibaka, shooting guard is a mediocre solution for a large problem. Ibaka, defensive force and mid-range specialist tilts the outcomes of games. More of the latter, please.
After good bench play and solid defense, all that was really needed was some finishing touches, and by the 4th quarter, Westbrook had found enough rhythm to score 11 points and put the game away. Hopefully forever.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
I think Nick Collison can answer that one for us.
He basically said, "Yeah, I'm going to bounce this pass in there just because I'm Nick Collison."
The other reason is that the Wolves are not very good.
Thunder Wonder: Serge Ibaka, 13 points, 19 rebounds, a familiar competent game
Thunder Down Under: Steven Adams, who was Superman to Nikola Pekovic's Non the Destroyer
Thunder Blunder: Perry Jones, whose alter ego as a competent basketball player seems to have vanished forever. But hey, sweet play there!
Thunder Plunderer: Andrew Wiggins, 23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Next game: Wednesday @ New York Knicks barring snow storms