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Thunder vs Timberwolves preview and gamethread: Troublesome team from Minnesota looks to take season series from OKC

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The Thunder have yet to beat the Wolves this season; can they do it tonight, possibly shorthanded?

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Minnesota Timberwolves

Time: 7PM CST

Location: Target Center, Minneapolis

Broadcast: FSOK

Counterpart: Canis Hoopus

***

The Thunder are back in action tonight after a harrowing win over the weekend against the Grizzlies. This evening they face the maddeningly inconsistent team from Minnesota who, just in the past few weeks, have beaten the Rockets, Kings and Clippers, yet fallen to the Hawks, Wizards and Grizzlies.

And of course they’ve beaten the Thunder twice where Andrew Wiggins — the guy Wolves fans can’t wait to get rid of — has somehow morphed into James Harden.

And OKC may have to do this without Paul George, who is a game time decision, and please Thunder coaching staff, don’t freak me out with this nonsense.

Steven Adams will have his hands full with Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been on quite the run. Despite missing a few games, he finished the month of February averaging 31 points on 62% shooting, over 50% from three, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists per. Yet despite that level of performance, his team went a paltry 5-7 with said losses above.

Minny continues to struggle on the defensive end, giving up more than they take in offensively, and that is a lesson worth remembering for the Thunder. And it’s a lesson I keep repeating ad nauseum — bad defensive teams play bad defense, but you only access that level of badness if you actually make them play defense past 10 seconds. Just about any team can stand up against the initial action or an ISO set and come out of it reasonably well. The way teams fall apart defensively is when you force them to have to make decisions, and the more you make them decide in rapid succession, the more likely it is that they either break down or give up.

Of course, the problem is Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder and company have not exactly taken that approach as of late. Which is weird, at least for the former, because we’ve watched Russ play some absolutely masterful games of making the defense work and then breaking them down, such as when he rolled up 24 assists against the Spurs. Yet the lack of patience is probably the biggest reason why OKC has found itself in 1st quarter holes for the last two weeks. The quick shots, which they’re not hitting, directly fuel easy offense the other way. Yet after those initial slow starts, OKC recovers.

The Thunder have also proven, even without George, they can still spike their defense for stretches. The problem is, there are limits to how long a team can play that way, and frequently, their defensive efforts to overcome deficits late have ended in losses when they run out of gas.

So there’s your two key themes for tonight:

  1. Patience on offense
  2. Earlier focus on defense

I don’t want this game to feel like a loss before the ball even tips off, but Thunder dudes, you gotta show me something to think otherwise.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Thunder
    (31 votes)
  • 46%
    Timberwolves
    (27 votes)
58 votes total Vote Now