Start time - 7:00 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
Oklahoma City come into the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves having played rather well against the Dallas Mavericks. OKC lost by 9 points to Dallas but the game hung in the balance until the last minute of the game.
A Thunder roster without Shai, Dort, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl played their hearts out and we were able to see the attitude and discipline instilled into these players. Oklahoma City stayed consistent in their efforts and did not allow the Mavericks’ big lead to knock their confidence.
Josh Giddey was the defining story from the Mavericks’ game. Giddey returned from Covid protocols and was handed the keys to the Thunder’s offense. He had no Shai to work with, all offensive creation went through him. There was a lot of pressure placed on Giddey’s shoulders and he performed excellently.
Josh finished the game with 17 points, 14 assists, 13 rebounds and 4 steals. He is the youngest player ever to notch a triple-double in the NBA. He is the 6th player in Thunder history to record a triple double. He will go into the record books alongside the likes of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The numbers are impressive but they do not tell the full story of Giddey’s game; he was simply that good. Josh’s pinpoint, creative passing walked his teammates into buckets time and time again. At the start of the third quarter, he assisted four straight makes and sparked life into the Thunder’s offense.
We also saw Josh delve into his scoring bag as well. Giddey had a few silky, precise step-back jumpers from outside and his usual array of accurate runners. He recognised that the Thunder’s offense needed a lift and raised his game to meet the moment. In my mind, that is a mark of an excellent floor general.
There were also two impressive performances from two of the Thunder’s ‘Forgotten Men’. Isaiah Roby and Theo Maledon have barely played for the main roster this season but they both put in sterling performances the other night.
Maledon did not score efficiently but he was everywhere on the defensive end of the floor. Theo would regularly spot errant passes and make it his business to disrupt the play. Oklahoma City played great defense on the Mavericks and Maledon’s play off the bench contributed greatly to that effort.
Isaiah Roby continued to display his willingness to take and make deep shots. Roby has taken 22 3-point attempts this season and has made 11 of these looks. The striking aspect of his outside shots is Roby’s lack of hesitation.
Isaiah would occasionally take 3-pointers last year but only after every other option had been exhausted. Whenever he caught the ball at the arc, he would pass the ball to a teammate or dribble towards the basket. There has been no dithering so far this season; Isaiah is launching away whenever he has space.
The game against the Timberwolves will be a stern test for the Thunder. Minnesota will have D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns available for Wednesday’s game. The T-Wolves will be at full strength for the first time in a while.
After years in the wilderness, Minnesota have finally landed on a core of players who can drive the team deep into the postseason. Anthony Edwards’ emergence as a scorer has provided Coach Finch with a third scoring option who can play off D’Lo and KAT.
Minnesota’s roster includes one of the Thunder’s old enemies, Patrick Beverley. Beverley is disliked by many Thunder fans for what he did to Russell Westbrook in the 2013 playoffs. Beverley dived into Russell’s knee and led to a tear in Westbrook’s meniscus. Russell did not play again in that postseason and Oklahoma City lost a chance at winning a championship.
Since then, we have seen Steven Adams lay Patrick Beverley out with a hard, bruising screen and achieve some level of karmic retribution.
Despite all of the jokes, the acquisition of Patrick Beverley has been crucial for the Timberwolves’ success. Beverley’s energy and intensity sets the tone on a nightly basis and challenges players like Edwards to consistently play at their best. Minnesota are 12-6 when Beverley, Towns and D’Lo all play.
I fully expect Patrick Beverley to pick up Josh Giddey on Wednesday. It will be important for Josh to avoid being drawn into the mind games and to continue playing his style of basketball. Letting the game become personal is exactly what Minnesota wants to happen. For the Thunder to play well, Giddey has to be calm and play with purpose.