The Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Oklahoma City to take on a Kevin Durant-less Thunder squad who continues to fight for their playoff lives. The Wolves gave their own big gun, Kevin Garnett, the night off as well. Enough foreplay, let’s get to the action!
The Timberwolves opened up with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Gorgui Dieng (i.e. still no Nikola Pekovic). The Thunder mixed things up a bit in an effort to get more offensive firepower in the starting lineup, going with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, and Mitch McGary.
Both teams came out firing on the offensive end, putting up points with very little regard for the defensive side of the ball. Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins put the Wolves on their shoulders in the first quarter, with the rookie drawing fouls and going to the line 10 times and making all 10!
However, the Wolves frontcourt defense left more than a little to be desired. Adreian Payne struggled to cover his man or rotate when necessary. The lack of prowess led to a quick timeout from Flip Saunders in the quarter, but he pretty much gave up hope shortly thereafter, allowing play to continue throughout a few rough patches. While the future Rookie of the Year kept his team in the hunt, the Thunder took a 31-26 lead into the second quarter.
Zach LaVine had another “I’m not a PG and stop making me play one on TV” start to the second quarter, with a missed 23 footer, a turnover, and allowing DJ Augustin go off to build the Thunder’s lead to 39-28. With that, Flip burned another timeout and brought back in the Unicorn. This sparked a 12-0 run to give the Wolves a 40-39 lead.
As goes the Wolves season, Kevin Martin blew a layup on the next possession and bricked a three-pointer after a nice block from Dieng. That seemed to give OKC some life as they went on a 5-0 run and were consistently beating the Wolves on the boards. The Thunder scored 11 points in the final 2:45 of the half and took a 55-49 lead into the locker room.
Halftime highlights include:
- Gorgui Dieng already amassed a double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds … to go with 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 assist. Please stop “tinkering” (PG-rated) with Gorgui’s minutes and role. He should be a part of the long term plan.
- Adreian Payne … I don’t see it. 11 minutes and a game low -14. I know he has shown a few sparks, but to give up a future 1st rounder for the guy is not likely to end well.
- Aided by Wiggins’ 10-10, the Wolves finished the half 13-13 at the FT line, while the Thunder went 8-8. Nice, fundamental basketball there!
Aside from a few Justin Hamilton highlights (pick-and-pop made jumper, emphatic dunk) the first six minutes of the third quarter were an abomination for the Wolves. The Wolves had four points in the first five minutes of the quarter before realizing that the second half started. After trailing by as many as 14 in the quarter, the Wolves fought back to cut the lead in half heading into the final frame – 79-72.
With the Wolves continuing to trail by seven points, 87-80, the Wolves PR crew sent out the following:
As a precaution, Ricky Rubio is doubtful to return tonight after tweaking his ankle in the third quarter. #Twolves
— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) March 14, 2015
(Insert stomach punch / game over)
As you might expect, this was the actual end of the game as the Thunder pulled away quickly thereafter. While the Thunder announcers praised the potential for the Wolves, at some point this needs to turn a corner. Here are a few thoughts from Twitter …
It just seemed like the KG trade, and Ricky’s return signaled something about trying to finish the year off on a competitive note.
— Punch-Drunk Wolves (@PDWolves) March 14, 2015
— JCV (@jasoncvincent) March 14, 2015
The final score, Thunder 113 – Timberwolves 99
A few notes from the game:
- Russell Westbrook barely missed a quadruple-double – 29 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds and 8 turnovers
- Following up on the halftime notes – Dieng finished with 21 and 14, while Payne finished with a -22 in 20 minutes of action
- Justin Hamilton finished with a career high 17 points and added 10 rebounds
- Enes Kanter continues to be a thorn in the Wolves’ side, finishing with 23 points and 15 rebounds
Enes Kanter now owns all three 20-10 games from a center in Thunder history. Has 21 and 14 midway through third quarter.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 14, 2015