An intrepid Oklahoma City Thunder squad begins the first leg of an exhaustive road-journey tonight vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
While Minnesota sports a lackluster 13-26 record, the T-wolves' latest on-court advancements belie such derisive numbers. Most recently, Coach Tom Thibodeau's brash crew abolished Houston's nine-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City enters Friday's contest having defeated its last three competitive charges.
Clearly, both teams benefit from a modicum of recent success. However, in regards to tonight’s proceedings, the Thunder holds a conspicuous 2-0 seasonal advantage against Minnesota. Additionally, throughout the half-finished regular campaign, the Thunder has outscored Minnesota by a convincing 224-192 competitive margin.
When the Northwest Division rivals last met on Dec. 25, OKC prevailed 112-100. On that night, Russell Westbrook (31 pts, 15 assts, seven rebs) Steven Adams (22 pts), and Enes Kanter (20) combined to easily overpower the home-standing Timberwolves.
Tonight, from the Target Center, Oklahoma City will face the task of disassembling the youthfully energetic Timberwolves’ hard-earned two-game unbeaten streak.
- OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (24-16) VS. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (13-26)
- Date: Friday, January 13
- Time: 8 PM ET
- Venue: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Wednesday night, Oklahoma City boldly avenged its worst defeat of the season by shattering the Memphis Grizzlies' imposing defensive barrier, 103-95.
Behind triple-double number 18 from Russell Westbrook, the Thunder silenced the roaring echoes of a dispiriting 114-80 Dec. 29 loss to Memphis, thus offering the best performance of the team’s campaign.
As OKC has answered a preceding three-game losing streak with a corresponding undefeated foray, Westbrook has reclaimed his status as a clutch contributor.
Opposite the feisty and unpredictable Timberwolves, Westbrook and company will need to provide a spirited effort.
It warrants reiterating that Minnesota defied its unenviable position of 'bottom-five' team in an unexpected mastery of Houston earlier this week.
During that signature Wolves win, the potent trio of Karl-Anthony Towns (23 pts, 18 rebs), Andrew Wiggins (28), and Shabazz Muhammad (20) proved too much for James Harden's Rockets to dispel. As the final horn sounded to conclude the Timberwolves' 119-105 triumph, a loud message caught the ear of Thunder Nation.
Nearing mid-January, Minnesota has the look of a team hungry for respect. A three-game winning streak and consecutive wins over 2016 playoff teams would help satisfy that appetite.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Don’t fix what isn’t broken (stick to previous gameplans)
- Continue to battle along the boards
- Establish Russ and Adams’ progressing two-man game
- Limit fouls and turnovers
- Avoid the trap of overconfidence
INJURY REPORTS/PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
The Oklahoma City Thunder has no injuries to report ahead of tonight’s contest. The Minnesota Timberwolves list Zach LaVine (hip) as day-to-day.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Ricky Rubio
- Shooting Guard: Brandon Rush/Zach LaVine
- Small Forward: Andrew Wiggins
- Power Forward: Gorgiu Dieng
- Center: Karl-Anthony Towns
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER -2
Due to the status of Zach LaVine’s injury, the odds for OKC vs. Minnesota were released late. Upon the arrival of the booksmaker’s numbers, Oklahoma City is favored slightly to continue undefeated vs. the Timberwolves.
The Thunder is 9-10 in contests away from Chesapeake Energy Arena this season. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves sport an 8-13 home record, and 0-7 record vs. divisional opponents.
Tonight’s key matchup will be Steven Adams vs. Karl-Anthony Towns. Adams should be able to use his physical strength to force KAT into uncomfortable positions. It is incumbent upon OKC’s defense to limit fastbreak and perimeter opportunities from the springy, yet highly inconsistent Timberwolves.
Normally, I don’t break kayfabe by posting in the first-person tense; however, as Managing Editor, I guess I’m allowed. My morning’s quick OKC rant is in praise of the ‘Kiwi Enforcer’ Steven Adams.
My debut post at WTLC was a rare feature piece in which I sung the virtues of both Adams’ unrivaled toughness and professionalism. While Adams epitomizes the label ‘top-caliber athlete,’ it has been personally gratifying to witness his burgeoning offensive skill set.
I feel the Thunder can compete with any team so long as Russ and Adams are functioning well in their above-break pick-and-roll sets. Further, I believe Adams’ infectious influence upon his Stache Brother’s game is starting to manifest positive results.
In addition, I’m obviously fond of all the OKC players (have to be to write about them this much) and I generally applaud Sam Presti’s frugal allotment of resources. Though, admittedly, the one instance in which I most readily tip my cap to Sam’s ‘prescient splurging’ is with his proactive re-signing of Adams. He is worth every penny of his current deal.
Thunder Up, baby!