What’s Thunder Without Lightning?

The Wolves defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in Minnesota’s second game of the season at Target Center. Over 17,000 attended Minnesota’s second game of the season Friday.

The Thunder were without All Star guard Russel Westbrook and after dealing Kevin Martin to the evening’s opponent during the offseason, Kevin Durant need to do some heavy lifting if he wanted to leave with a victory. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic started the game with an aggressive mentality on offense. They got to the rim, embraced contact, got to the foul line and hit 13 of 14 free-throws in the opening quarter. Rubio was 4 for 4, Love 5 for 6 and both Brewer and Pek went 2 for 2 and the quarter ended with a 34-19 lead.

In the second period backup center Ronnie Turiaf walked to the bench after banging around for a rebound, he grimaced and appeared in pain. We later learned the veteran fractured his elbow and that no timetable has been made for his return. This didn’t prevent from the fans having a blast in the stands, here’s Crunch crowd-surfing in 121, second of the T-Wolves Army — the place was rowdy, the Wolves have returned.

Photo Credit: Todd Dombock

Photo Credit: Todd Dombock

The first half ended with the Thunder trailing by 20 points, 39-59. Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. Consider the idea that the Wolves haven’t worked out all the kinks in Rick Adelman’s Princeton offense and there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency — these guys can score points.

By the end of the third Love and Rubio each had their own double-double, K-Love had 24 points and 12 boards while Ricky had 14 and dished out 10 dimes before period’s end. Big Pek would order his own double-double, tallying 15 points and 10 boards before the starters rested early in the fourth. The Wolves lead was as high as 34 at one point and Durant hinted to the media that something like this could happen prior to tip-off .

“Ever since I got in the league, every game against the Wolves has been either a great game or a blowout,” Durant said at the Thunder’s morning shootaround. “Either they blow us out, or we beat them pretty bad.”

The team’s split the season series last year 2-2 and the home team’s record was 4-0 — the last time the Thunder returned to Oklahoma City, from Minnesota, with a win was April 14th of 2012. Durant is spot-on and these two always seem to entertain at least their own audience, if not both, when getting together. They’ll meet in Oklahoma City for the first time of this season on December 1st.

Derrick Williams saw his first action of the season, making the most of 27 minutes by scoring points and finishing plays with powerful, enthusiastic dunks — he cut well, played within himself and was eager to make plays after not seeing the floor in Wednesday’s opener.

Rookie’s Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, as well as Robbie Hummel, as a whole, played roughly 27 minutes but failed to score. They shot 0 for 5 from the field, Hummel missed a three-pointer and Dieng failed to hit any of his four FT’s during the fourth quarter. I presume we’ll be seeing a lot more of the rookie out of Louisville due to the injury to Turiaf — Hummel and ‘Shabazz’ will compete for minutes backing up Brewer at shooting guard, D-Will played mostly as a power forward while Love rested and Dante Cunningham failed to get things going offensively.

Here’s the final box score.

From the NBA.com Gamebook.

From the NBA.com Gamebook

 

The Wolves face the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight, tip-off is at 6:30 (CST) and the game will be broadcasted on FoxSportsNorth.

Look for the preview in an hour or two, follow @TimberpupsBlog for play-by-play updates.

 

Zach.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves @ Oklahoma City Thunder, 2/22/13

Photo Credit: USA Basketball

Photo Credit: USA Basketball

The Timberwolves travel to Oklahoma City on Friday night to take on the defending Western Conference champion Thunder.  Minnesota comes into the game off of a victory against Philadelphia Wednesday night to move their record to 20-31 on the season.  The Thunder come into Friday’s game off a loss to the Rockets in Houston the same night, dropping their record to 39-15.

While these two teams are heading in very different directions this season, they tend to match-up well against one another and always seem to be enjoyable games to watch.  That wasn’t necessarily the case when Minnesota traveled to OKC on 1/9, as they were blown out of the building, 106-84.  This could have been a product of the Thunder returning the favor for their loss at the Target Center on 12/20.

A quick note about the trade deadline from Thursday – the Wolves made exactly zero moves to their roster and I have to say that I am not disappointed.  Derrick Williams can only help his trade value from now until the 2013 draft.  The team isn’t good enough to push Ridnour or Barea off to someone else for a short term rental (since we aren’t making the playoffs this season).  Finally, a semi-kudos to the team for not making a salary dump move to save a few dollars in Glen Taylor’s wallet.  Net/net, this team will be very active again this summer and has a full stock of assets to leverage.

While the Wolves stood pat, the Thunder made two minor moves that probably make them a bit stronger for the playoffs.  In separate trades, they sent Eric Maynor to the Blazers for a trade exception and acquired Ronnie Brewer from the Knicks for a 2nd round pick.  (I wonder if James Harden’s explosion Wednesday night aided their desire to make this move and get a little bigger in the back court.)

Oklahoma City remains a powerhouse in the Western Conference and have high aspirations come playoff time.  Led by perennial all-stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the team will look to work its way through the Western Conference and once again challenge for the NBA Championship.  Anything less is likely to be seen as a disappointment to fans.

With that mindset, this preview has been done in conjunction with the ‘Welcome to Loud City’ blog on SB Nation.  Here are the questions that we posed to J.A. Sherman from the team’s blog.  He passed along a few Wolves-related questions as well, and you can find those questions and our answers on their site.

Here’s were my questions for Trey …

Thunder Question #1 for Trey:

As a fan of the Thunder, can you please explain the mindset of “championship or bust” to us Wolves fans, who have been continuously tortured since 1989?  Do these expectations make the games easier or harder to watch regularly?  Would you consider anything less than a conference championship a failure? 

Trey:

As a Thunder fan, it’s certainly nice to have “championship or bust expectations.” It’s like being the Yankees of the NBA and the team has only been in the city since 2008. It makes the game easier to watch because you’re always dissecting the team’s play, no matter the opponent. Even if they’re on top for most of the game, it’s still fun to see what Durant and Westbrook are going to do next. Of course there are blowouts and nobody likes watching 48 minutes of a 20-point game, but it’s worth the price for 50-win seasons and Finals appearances.

This season, anything less than a conference championship would have to be considered a disappointment. I doubt there is anybody in the organization that feels any other way. After taking the step last year with their WCF win over San Antonio, it’s hard to imagine the Thunder would be satisfied with anything less. They’ve got the same two stars and although they sent Harden to Houston, Kevin Martin is still a good enough scorer to give them substantial firepower off the bench.  

 Thunder Question #2 for Trey:

Is there a particular weakness for the Thunder and/or do you fear that there might be something in the current construction of the team that could be exploited down the stretch and in the playoffs?  Coming off Harden’s performance Wednesday, does an elite wing worry you?

Trey:

I think one thing that showed up against Houston and also against the Heat before the All-Star Game is the fact Oklahoma City has problems running their offense while down late in games. I think it becomes too much Durant and Westbrook one-on-one rather than finding a good shot every possession. People tend to blame Westbrook because he’s the point guard. However, it’s just as much Durant’s fault. They both tend to force shots when the team is trailing late. Could a team in the West exploit this? I don’t think so because I’m not sure the Spurs or Clippers can develop big leads against the Thunder and force them into those one-on-one situations.

Well, if you consider LeBron James a wing, which I do, then I would be extremely worried. Harden and LeBron are obviously different players with much different arsenals and Harden is great, but in a seven-game series I’m not worried about him taking over for four victories. However, LeBron has dominated the Thunder this season. They don’t have an answer for him right now and unless newly acquired Ronnie Brewer can give him problems, the Heat could be looking at a second straight Finals victory over the Thunder.

 Thunder Question #3 for Trey:

Rather than ask you a question about Durant or Westbrook, let’s go deep into the rotation.  What are your thoughts on Hasheem Thabeet?  Do you think he has a long term future in the league?  Is there a light bulb there that might go off?  Finally, how would you grade his (limited) performance thus far?  

Trey:

I’m not sure Hasheem Thabeet has a long-term home in Oklahoma City, but he is putting up better numbers than last year’s backup center Nazr Mohammed. He seems to be a popular player in the locker room and usually give Scott Brooks quality minutes, but it’s hard to see him developing into much more than a 10-12 minutes kind of player.

I would give him a B so far this season. Like I said, he’s outplayed Mohammed’s production from a year ago, but with his size and frame you would think he could have more of an impact every night. Unless the Thunder moves Kendrick Perkins for somebody with more of an offensive game in the future, I can’t see the Thunder hanging on to Thabeet. This is already his fourth team since being drafted No. 2 overall by the Grizzlies in 2009 and I doubt it’s his last.

 

To see our Pups-related Q&A, please click here.

We hope you enjoyed the preview for this Friday’s match-up between the Pups and the Thunder.  Again, you can read more from J.A. at the Welcome to Loud City blog or follow them on Twitter.  As always, you can read more from John on Twitter.