Short-Handed Timberwolves Fall 106-97 to Thunder

The Timberwolves faced the 40-11 OKC without the help of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer. Despite playing without some of their top scorers, the Wolves gave a valiant effort. Minnesota actually held the lead a few times during the first half, and the teams battled back and forth. It was the Thunder that held the upper hand, though, and came away with the 106-97 win. Ricky Rubio led the team with 19 points, while Dante Cunningham filled in as a starting forward and added 18.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said head coach Rick Adelman. “They busted their tails the whole game.”

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OKC’s Kevin Durant scored 26 points on the evening, but he surprisingly didn’t become the deciding factor in the fourth.  The star forward scored only two points for the Thunder in the final period, but his teammates still managed to pull away from Minnesota for the win.  Reggie Jackson added 20 points (seven in the fourth quarter) and dished out nine assists.  Wednesday marked the Thunder’s 12th win in 13 games, and they are the first team in the league to hit 40 wins this season.

Minnesota scored 54 points in the first half but only 43 in the second, shooting an overall 47 percent from the field.  Rubio and Cunningham really stepped up offensively in the absence of Love and Brewer, and JJ Barea delivered another strong performance with 11 points and four assists off the bench.  Where Minnesota felt a loss the most was in rebounding. With both Love and Pek sidelined, the Wolves only grabbed 39 boards to OKC’s 49.

“I knew they’d play scrappy with three starters out,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.  “A wounded team generally steps up. But I thought we played good defense for only about four minutes in the first quarter and then in the fourth quarter. Other than that we didn’t play the kind of defense we usually do.”

The Timberwolves held their own through three quarters of basketball. At the end of the third quarter, Derek Fisher hit a buzzer-beating three and led a 16-4 Thunder run, growing the deficit to 12. From that point on, Minny found itself unable to catch up.  Robbie Hummel came off the bench to hit a three at the 3:45 mark, and that brought the score to 95-89, but that was the closest the Wolves got to regaining their footing.

Rubio said the following after the game: “We came into the game aggressive and we fought all the way through, but in the last five minutes, I think we missed too many free throws and easy shots while they made shots at the end.”

(photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

(photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

The tough loss dipped Minnesota’s record below .500 once again. The Wolves currently sit at No. 11 in the Western Conference, falling to five games out of the No. 8 playoff spot. They will continue on to New Orleans to face the Pelicans Friday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline and Injury Notes

Brewer missed the game with Family Leave after the birth of his son on Tuesday.  Coach Adelman says he expects Brewer to rejoin the team for Friday’s game.

Pekovic remained sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, and Love was listed as a “sore neck” after taking a nasty fall against the Lakers Tuesday night.

 

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.