OKLAHOMA CITY — On Saturday evening, the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves visited an Oklahoma City Thunder squad. OKC was looking to get back in rhythm following a 122-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, and getting back in rhythm was exactly what OKC did. The Timberwolves, coming off a 102-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets, were looking for a statement game as well.
The Oklahoma City Thunder won handily 112-92 over the Minnesota Timberwolves, with OKC’s statement being that they’ve moved on, and Minnesota’s statement being, they’ve not arrived quite yet.
The Thunder offense after six games is not a finished product, but they showed immediate improvement in Saturday's victory. Victor Oladipo continues to become more comfortable with his role in the offense and moved around with a purpose on plays, including the one below where Westbrook fed him cutting down the lane for a big slam.
Victor Oladipo flies in from out of frame for the two-handed finish! https://t.co/nv6vQXnTeU— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) November 5, 2016
Russell Westbrook took advantage of his matchup against rookie guard Kris Dunn both in the post and in transition all evening long. The Steven Adams up-and-under move is real, as he scored 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting in 10 minutes through the first quarter and went on to shoot an efficient 85.7% with 14 points overall.
Westbrook was already on pace for a triple-double stat line after one quarter (6-4-6 and only one turnover). He is becoming the NBA's most consistent and prolific stat sheet stuffer, aside from Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.
Oddly enough, these two young teams played most of the first half relying on their post play:
I'm amazed at how many post-ups I've seen in this Thunder-Wolves game just 13 minutes in. Hardly looks like NBA basketball in 2016.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 5, 2016
The Wolves’ Karl Anthony-Towns shouldered most of the load to keep Minnesota close, while Westbrook had a rough second quarter as he flailed up a shot two different times in transition, hoping to draw contact and did not get a call either time. He continued to facilitate his teammates and he was finally cleared for liftoff (✈️✈️✈️) with 2:15 left in the first half.
At the half, the Thunder led the Timberwolves only by six. Anthony-Towns was the whole show for the T-Wolves' offense, with 25 points on 71.4% shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. Westbrook had 18-6-6 on 45.5% shooting. Both teams shot well in the first half; OKC shot 52.3% and 40% from three, while MIN shot 45.7% and 37.5% from three. Minnesota held a slight rebounding advantage with 23 rebounds over OKC's 21.
There was a conscious effort (by Westbrook on the floor and Donovan from a coaching standpoint) to get everyone involved in the offense right away. It is very promising that Westbrook already understands this early in the year that he cannot drag this team to the finish line alone. Some nights he will be able to, but he must trust that his teammates will also make plays throughout the season.
The third quarter was a turning point for the Thunder with a shutdown performance on defense and an 18-1 run at one point as well. Roberson took space away from Wiggins, while Oladipo guarded LaVine admirably, with the Thunder duo taking away the Wolves’ athletic guard play. As for the offense, Westbrook ignited the rest of the team and the Thunder bench joined in on the fun, particularly Enes Kanter with 20 points off the bench.
How quickly can a Thunder team executing sharply in transition take another squad out of the game?
This Wolves third quarter isn’t a disaster yet but it’s not good either. Progress?— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) November 5, 2016
Ok now it’s a disaster— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) November 5, 2016
60 seconds? Wow, that was fast!
This also happened during a break in the third quarter... and then OKC went on a game-defining run.
Kanter and Anthony-Towns got tied up in the third quarter as emotions ran a bit high.
Kanter and Towns getting into it during the jump ball. https://t.co/6pvIQK6Vw0— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) November 5, 2016
OKC outscored Minnesota in the third quarter by 12 points and built up an 18 point lead heading into the fourth before things got completely out of hand for the Timberwolves.
Russell Westbrook's MVP bid for the season is alive and well. He did not end up earning a triple double because he barely played in the fourth quarter. After a chat on the bench with head coach Billy Donovan, they both decided that there was no need for Westbrook to check back in with such a big lead.
Westbrook's night ended with an impressive line of 28 points on 50% shooting and an outstanding shooting performance from three point land (4-of-5), as well as 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and only 2 turnovers in 28 minutes.
Kanter got right in this game after a disastrous outing against the GSW. He finished the night with 20 points on 64.3% shooting and snagged 10 rebounds in 20 minutes.
For the Timberwolves, Karl Anthony-Towns finished the game with 33 points on 65% shooting and six rebounds. He was also 3-for-4 from three-point range. The second highest scorer for Minnesota was Shabazz Muhammad with 15 points and it was all in garbage time. No other Timberwolves player scored more than 8 points.
The Thunder's biggest lead of the game was 26 points.
The Oklahoma City Thunder move to 5-1 on the season and the Minnesota Timberwolves fall to 1-4. This was the first of five straight home games for the Thunder with the Heat, Raptors, Clippers, and Magic coming up through the next eight days.