Recap – Thunder 113, Timberwolves 103

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After Saturday night’s win in Dallas to bring the team back to .500, the Pups were right back at it on Sunday night to take on the Thunder.  Going into Sunday’s game the Thunder were an impressive 11-3 on the season and a perfect 8-0 at home.  No changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  No surprises in the Thunder lineup either: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins.  Perhaps the only surprise is that Perkins is still in the starting lineup over Steven Adams.  I digress.

Game Summary

Another highly entertaining match-up against the Thunder for fans that unfortunately ended in disappointment.  The Wolves didn’t trail in this game until an OKC 8-0 run to start the 4th quarter put them on top for the first time and for good.  The Pups never recovered from that stomach punch to start the quarter and looked gassed towards the end of the game. 

Kevin Durant is a golden god in the NBA and he put the full package on display for the fans, finishing the game with his fourth career triple double.  While Russell Westbrook looked a little slow/off, it didn’t matter tonight.  The Wolves continue to struggle to find help from their bench, as Dante Cunningham, LRMAM, and JJ Barea were a net -43 on the +/- scale this evening.  That isn’t very good.

The Wolves dropped below .500 again on the season, falling to 9-10 in total and a concerning 3-7 away from the Target Center.  Here is how things evolved in more detail:

First Half

You would have never thought the Wolves were on a back to back to start the game, as the team came out firing on all cylinders.  Kevin Love drained 3 three pointers in the first few minutes to help build an 18-11 lead going into the first timeout of the game, halfway through the quarter.  Unfortunately, shortly before the timeout, Ricky Rubio picked up his second foul and forced Adelman to go to JJ Barea.  If you watched Saturday night’s game, you probably know where the “unfortunately” comes from.

Despite Rubio’s foul trouble, the Wolves’ offense continued to display a nice flow to it.  As could have been predicted, Perkins picked up two quick fouls for OKC as well and was replaced by Adams.  Neither contribute much on the offensive end, while the Thunder relied on their big guns to keep themselves well within striking distance.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 32-26 advantage.

The 2nd quarter was a highly entertaining quarter of basketball, full of mini-runs from both teams.  The Wolves would put together a few baskets in a row, and the Thunder would answer right back.  There weren’t any big runs, but neither team was going to be able to pull away from the other.

While Nikola Pekovic struggled to find his shot in the paint, it was good to see the team continue to run the offense inside-out.  What was nice to see was the continued strong play from the starting wings – Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer.  Despite struggling from the outside, Brewer had several fast break points that helped build momentum for the Pups.  Martin was not struggling from the field whatsoever and has looked to have found his shot again – going 5-9 from the field, including 3-4 from downtown, for a team high 17 points at halftime.

At the half, the Wolves held a 58-55 lead.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Durant had 20 points on 11 shots in 21 minutes, but for some reason, Serge Ibaka had taken as many shots in the first half of the game.  ?
  • Westbrook had a quiet first half … perhaps still showing some effects from his injuries.
  • I’m not sure where the Wolves would be without Martin and Brewer.  Actually, I can assure you they wouldn’t have five wins right now.

Second Half

We got close to our first Pek-Smash of the season, as Kendrick Perkins took a Perkins-like cheap shot at Rubio driving to the basket.  Pekovic stood up for his PG and the two received double technical fouls.  There was more of a defensive theme to the 3rd quarter, as both teams struggled to execute on the offensive end.  The two Kevin’s + another dominated the highlights.  Love earned his double-double in the quarter, Martin did his thing, and Durant continued to carry the Thunder.  The Wolves outscored the Thunder 25-23 in the quarter and took an 83-78 lead into the final frame.

The Thunder started the 4th quarter with an 8-0 run and took the lead for the first time in the game, 86-83.  This led to a quick TO from Adelman to try to right the ship.  It didn’t work over the course of the next few minutes.  JJ Barea stayed in the game and continued to get beat by Reggie Jackson.  At the same time, Kevin Durant took over as the top dog/Kevin on the floor.  After Durant hit another three pointer, the Thunder build its largest lead of the game 94-88, leading to another timeout.

It didn’t get any easier for the Wolves, as the Thunder kept the pressure on and dominated the remainder of the quarter.  Kevin Durant put up a triple double and carried the Thunder home.  With under two minutes to play and down by double-digits, Adelman threw up the white flag and threw in the bench mob.  Shabazz Muhammad drained a three point FG but air-balled a second attempt and I’m going to assume you won’t see him this coming week against San Antonio or Miami.  (Ugh)

The final score – Thunder 113, Timberwolves 103

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Durant – 32 points, 12 assists, 10 points, 4 steals, and 4 blocks for the second best player on the planet.  “Not bad”
  2. Reggie Jackson – 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a game high +20.  Read: JJ Barea’s defensive assignment
  3. Kevin Martin – 24 points and a little bit of everything else 

Key Takeaways

  • JJ Barea has played the worst two game stretch I have seen him play (/ remember) since Adelman took over.
  • Flip may have to pull the trigger on another move or two soon, particularly if Budinger has even the smallest of setbacks.  I’ll add this here: if this team is struggling to stay above the Mason-Dixon Line (.500) at the trade deadline, they should be sellers to try and get a head-start at one last roster revamp with Love, Rubio, and Pekovic.