In a widely expected blowout between the Western Conference-best Oklahoma City Thunder and the faded Minnesota Timberwolves, the Wolves put up a hard-fought battle to the end and the Thunder were able to escape on the road with a 115-110 victory. Kevin Love sat out with lingering concussion symptoms, which have kept him out of commission ever since he took an inadvertent elbow to the temple from Nuggets C JaVale McGee last week. In his stead, young forwards Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley showed off their impressive upsides against arguably the best team in the NBA, helping to keep this game competitive until the final minute of the game. However, the superstar tandem of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook proved once again to be too much for the Timberwolves to handle, as they scored 43 and 35 points, respectively.
Beginning to embrace his role as the starting PG, JJ Barea notched his third consecutive double-double as he finished with 24 points and 10 assists. Minnesota’s favorite Puerto Rican did a great job of penetrating Oklahoma City’s defense and finished many off balance floaters and layups among tall defenders in the interior. In the second half, Barea took on the role of distributor as the Thunder defense focused to shut him down after a prolific scoring effort in the first half. The only other healthy ball-handler, Malcolm Lee provided 10 minutes of relief and scored 3 points while tallying 3 assists.
Every starter for the Timberpups last night possessed a negative +/-, whereas all four bench players were positive. Leading the way for the Pups was Beasley, who scored 26 points on an impressive 13-21 shooting while also recording 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 39 minutes of action. Super Cool Beas had been very quiet these past few weeks but exploded off the bench in a matchup against his lifelong best friend, Kevin Durant. Maybe it was the motivation of facing his best friend that awoke Beasley’s play, but he regardless put forward an excellent performance in which he attacked the rim while playing solid defense. If Beasley could find a way to play with the fire that he had last night, he would be making max contract money somewhere in this league. He made good perimeter defenders look like fools as he used shot fakes to get them off balance and used explosive spin moves to escape defenders while finishing with finesse. The potential is there, but the consistency remains to be seen.
Getting the start at PF was Derrick Williams, who had a humbling game to say the least. In 13 minutes, D-Will missed all 4 of his shot attempts and committed 3 personal fouls, all the while struggling on defense and looking as immature as he has looked all season. With D-Will struggling, Anthony Randolph seized his opportunity to get more minutes and put forth an excellent showing. AR-15 played with confidence and pride against a tremendous opponent, and although he had a few moments that depicted just how raw and immature he is, he displayed how special of a player he could one day be. Randolph possessed a team high +11 and finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Outside of Barea, Beasley, and Randolph, the Pups were very quiet on the offensive end. Nikola Pekovic recorded a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, but shot just 5-12 from the field and was shut down against a strong and athletic OKC front court. Wes Johnson and Martell Webster provided 15 combined points and were non-factors throughout the contest. Finally, Anthony Tolliver played 12 minutes and made 1 of his 2 shot attempts.
All in all, the Pups played with resilience and showed that they are not yet done fighting this season. It is evident that Head Coach Rick Adelman will continue to demand nothing short of full effort even if their playoff dreams are dead, and the next couple weeks will provide players like Anthony Randolph more opportunities to show how he has progressed in his short tenure with the Wolves. With Durant and Westbrook on fire, this was a very improbable win.
- Key Player: Kevin Durant scored 40 points against the Timberwolves for the second straight game, hitting 15 of his 23 attempts including 4 of his 6 three-point attempts. Durant is well on his way to this season’s MVP award.
- Key Stat: The battered and bruised T-Wolves got outrebounded 53-39 last night, and the injury to Love combined with Pekovic playing through bone spurs has really taken away from the Pups ability to rebound.
Photo Credits: CanisHoopus