Durant & Co. proved to be too much for the Timberwolves in an incredibly close battle that came down to the waning seconds of the game. Durant, Westbrook & Harden combined for 77 of Oklahoma City's 104 points as they are now 2-0 on the season (defeating the Magic on Christmas day, as well).
This marks the 10th straight time the Thunder have defeated the Timberwolves--staying undefeated against their division rivals since their move from Seattle. It's also, technically, the Wolves' 16-straight regular season loss (as the Wolves ended the season on a 15-game losing streak), which ties for the mos
It was a battle of a team with lofty expectations--one that many peg to be a contender up against a team many would dub, a doormat of the League. With this narrow loss, I don't think anyone will be seeing Minnesota as the "laughingstock" of the NBA.
It came down to the wire as the Timberwolves had a chance to tie it up late. With just seconds left Michael Beasley drove baseline and met Kendrick Perkins in the lane, there was contact (watching the replays, I don't think there was any foul), Perkins grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 3.0 seconds to go. He stepped up to the line, and knocked down both shots midst a roaring crowd at the Target Center, an airball from Beasley as time ran out, sealed the victory for OKC and allowed them a BIG sigh of relief!
Watching the game on TV, it was a blast watching Ricky Rubio & Derrick Williams in their NBA debuts as well as J.J. Bareas TWolves debut! All three had solid games...but we'll get to that in a bit...
Let's take a look at some team statistics...
What sticks out? For Minnesota, like I've said before; "Live by the three, die by the three!" Anytime you shoot 14% and take 22 attempts from deep, you're lucky to have only lost by four. That, however, is not the biggest surprise when you look at these stats, what is? The fact the Wolves had just 12 turnovers on the night! 12! Obviously, something they've been working on in practice--and should continue to work on. Lastly, the Wolves' bench points. They got some good production off the pine from Barea, Williams & Rubio. The Thunder's bench--as always, was led by James Harden who dumped in 16 of those 29 bench points. When Westbrook & Durant combine for 61 points, your bench isn't a huge concern--though I don't doubt they wish they had a few more options off the pine.
Let's take a look at some key performers in tonight's game for each squad...
Kevin Love: 22pts, 12rebs, 5ast, 43% FG, 9-for-12 from the line, 3fls, 3tos, 1stl, in 41 minutes
--Kevin Love had a solid game, Perkins & Ibaka kept him off the boards--a bit, but really, he did still grab 12! It's crazy, to me, that Love had more turnovers tonight (3) than Beasley did (2).
Michael Beasley: 24pts, 5rebs, 1ast, 1blk, 11-for-27 (41%) FG, 2tos, 1stl in 36 minutes
--As usual, Beasley jacked up a lot of shots and didn't make too many. 41% isn't terrible, but when you throw up 27 shots, he's literally taking nearly twice as many shots as the rest of his teammates (Love & Williams both with 14 FGAs).
J.J. Barea: 14pts, 2rebs, 2ast in 27 minutes off the bench
--Barea was a huge spark off the bench, he had a number of charges he drew, some good defensive work, and a number of easy layups. He'll be key cog in that second unit this season.
Darko Milicic: 12pts, 3rebs, 2fls, 1to, 4-for-6 FG, 4-for-6 FT, in 20 minutes
--Darko actually had a solid game. Sure, he probably shouldn't have been called on as much as he was in the post, but he was efficent from the field and when he was sent to the line, the story was the same. He didn't have any blocks, however, against bigs like Perkins & Ibaka; I wouldn't expect it. Perkins--who practically, doesn't take any shots & Ibaka who eithers slams an easy dunk or hits the elbow jumper.
In their rookie debuts...
Derrick Williams: 13pts, 6rebs, 1ast, 6-for-14 FG, 0-for-4 3PT, 3fls, 2tos, 1stl, in 24 minutes off the bench
--Not a great game for the rookie. Sure he had 13 points, but it wasn't done efficiently. He missed all the three-point shots he took--which seemed to be the case for a lot of the Wolves players!
Ricky Rubio: 6pts, 5rebs, 6ast, 2-for-3 FG, 2-2 FT, 4fls in 26 minutes off the bench
--Plain and simple, I wish he would just start already! His passing ability is not only fun to watch, but he gets his teammates some of the best wide-open looks I've ever seen! Just flat-out fun to watch! I give Luke Ridnour 6 or 7 more games, before he losses his starting job to the young Spaniard!
Kevin Durant: 33pts, 5rebs, 3ast, 1stl, 100% in 7FTAs, in 38 minutes
Russell Westbrook: 28pts, 6rebs, 6ast, 100% in 8FTAs, 7tos, 3stls, in 36 minutes
James Harden: 16pts, 6rebs, 3ast in 30 minutes off the bench
--Flat out, these three guys killed the Wolves tonight. Watching Durant play, just makes me "hate" him, because he literally makes almost every shot he takes up (or at least that's the way it seems) and by hate, I simply mean: upset--because he's not on my team! The Wolves did a great job frustrating Westbrook and causing those 7tos, though he did still have a solid scoring night. Lastly, Harden; he actually had 14pts at halftime, so, the Wolves either did a better job on him defensively or he just disappeared in the second half! I'll go with a Wolves defensive effort! :)
That's all for now, thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the game as much as I did this evening! Hope you had a Happy Holidays, you can expect a full gameday preview for the Timberwolves game versus the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow evening by early afternoon tomorrow! Also, stay tuned to our TWolves Media-Pictures section for some photos from tonight's game! Good night & GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!