Coming off of a win Wednesday night at home against Philadelphia, the Timberwolves traveled to Oklahoma City to take on a league powerhouse in the Thunder. As an added bonus, the Wolves were back on national television to kickoff ESPN’s Friday night doubleheader. Unfortunately for those that don’t follow the Wolves closely, they are seeing half of a finished product. Friday night was not much different as the Wolves found themselves down early and were never able to recover.
The Thunder got off to a hot start, going 8-11 from the field to start the game. This led to an early 18-11 lead over the Wolves going into the first timeout of the game. Ricky Rubio picked up two early fouls and was already on the bench prior to the timeout. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Thunder held a ten point lead (33-23) and the game was not looking very promising for the Pups.
Aside from Rubio’s foul trouble, Derrick Williams finished the quarter 0-5 from the field, missing two 3 pointers and a few layups at the rim. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder to the fast start, finishing the quarter with 11 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds. If you were looking for a silver lining, Kevin Durant was struggling from the field, only 1-4 from the field and finishing the quarter with 6 points.
In the 2nd quarter the Pups received several strong performances from their second unit, including; JJ Barea, Cunningham, Stiemsma, and Shved. While the defensive effort didn’t improve much, at least the team was able to compete offensively and keep the game in striking distance. At the end of the half, the Wolves cut the Thunder lead to 5 points and then Luke Ridnour pulled another bonehead play with the clock ticking down, fouling Russell Westbrook on a 3 pointer. Westbrook hit all three free throws to give the Thunder a 66-58 lead going into the half.
Here are several halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- The Wolves second unit were the only reason they were in the game as the starters were shooting a woeful 7-25 from the field
- Derrick Williams was the main ‘contributor’ to these shooting problems, throwing up a 1-8 from the field, including a number of blown layups
- The ESPN crew ripped apart the moves David Kahn has made over the past few years during their halftime show – and I found myself agreeing with them in many cases, which just made it that much more annoying
The 3rd quarter could easily be described as a quarter of runs. The Thunder increased their lead to 17 points, the Wolves cut it back to 8, and then the Thunder responded to increase the lead back to 17 points to close the quarter. It was not a defensive struggle in Oklahoma City Friday night, as the home team held a 100-83 lead going into the final frame. Unfortunately for the Pups, Kevin Durant got hot in the 3rd quarter, leading to a strong feeling of doubt that the Wolves had much of a chance of making a comeback.
The 4th quarter mentally felt like extreme “gah-bage” time, even though you could easily make an argument that the Wolves were technically in the game. A quick kudos to Ricky Rubio who continued to run all over the court in an effort to pick up a quick steal, create a turnover, etc. Outside of this effort, there really wasn’t too much to talk about – evidenced by the lack of game insight the ESPN crew were providing at the same time. The final score of Friday’s game was a 127-111 victory for the Thunder. The Wolves actually never held an advantage in the game.
Keys of the Game
- Talent – This probably sounds pompous, but the Wolves just do not have the star power that the Thunder have. Durant and Westbrook simply brought it on Friday night and took full advantage of the depleted Wolves.
- Shutting down Pek – Coming off of a huge performance Wednesday night, Pekovic couldn’t get anything established for himself vs. Kendrick Perkins, and even to a lesser extent, against Hasheem Thabeet. In 22 minutes, Pek had 5 points on 1-4 shooting with 2 rebounds.
- The shooter’s touch – As a team, the Thunder were absolutely lights-out Friday night: 58% from the field, 64% from 3PT range, and a perfect 22-22 from the FT line.
Three Stars of the Game
- Russell Westbrook – Westbrook aided in getting Rubio into early foul trouble and took over the game from that point. He finished with 37 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.
- Kevin Durant – Despite the slow 1st half, Durant finished the game strong to reach “his numbers” – 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists of his own.
- Kevin Martin – This could have gone to Rubio, but with the “blowout” loss, it didn’t feel right to give this to a Pup. Martin was extremely efficient coming off the bench with 17 points on 7-11 FG’s.