The Minnesota Timberwolves halted the Oklahoma City Thunder winning streak at twelve games with a 99-93 win at the Target Center on Thursday night.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were led by their frontcourt that continues to dominate against some of the best teams in the NBA. Serge Ibaka & Kendrick Perkins had their hands full as Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic combined for 52pts, 21reb, 7ast, 1stl, 4blks and 19-38 FG.
The Wolves outscored the Thunder 30-18 in the first quarter. They held the Thunder to nine points in the first nine minutes of action and they used that 12-point lead through the final three quarters. The Thunder outscored Minnesota in the last three quarters (23-26, 23-25, 23-24), but it was that big first quarter that Minnesota rode for the W.
The Wolves got some great offensive play from their imposing power forward/center combo, however if you watched the game, you know how valuable Andrei Kirilenko was in this game. His great game doesn't show up in the stat line (9pts on 3-of-10 shooting, 4reb, 2ast, 5tos, 6fls), however it was his defense vs. Kevin Durant that was key for the Wolves in this one. He bothered Durant all night with his smothering D as Kevin missed nine of his attempts and three of his attempts from deep, while also turning the ball over 3 times and committing 5 fouls.
I was thrilled with Minnesota's play through the first two quarters, however after halftime as we moved into the second half, I (along with nearly every Wolves fan) was tentative as the thoughts of many, many games this season, where the Wolves blew double-digit leads in the third/fourth quarter(s) for another heartbreaking loss. Tonight it was different. Tonight the Wolves were playing the best and hottest team in the NBA and they weren't about to let these Thunder walk over them for their 13th straight W and another 'notch in their belt'.
The Thunder were playing without their offensive firepower from the bench--Kevin Martin, who missed the game with a thigh contusion. It was clear they missed his offense tonight as the Thunder bench could only muster 7 points on the night (3 from Maynor, 4 from Jackson). You won't find any Wolves fans feeling sorry for the Thunder, being without Martin as the Wolves were shorthanded themselves. They played without Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee. Word also came before the game that the Wolves waived Josh Howard after finding out he tore his ACL and would be out for the season. With just eleven players and one player (Rubio) with a minute restriction (18 minutes). The Wolves still eked out the six-point win.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
HOT: J.J. Barea pushed the Wolves to the win in this one with his performance in the fourth quarter. He scored 14 of his 18 in that final quarter (including 4 consecutive made threes). Kevin Love finally got back on track with 28pts on some decent shooting (9-20). Nikola Pekovic dominated the interior as the likes of Kendrick Perkins (4 fouls) and Hasheem Thabeet (2 fouls) didn't stand a chance.
NOT: Russell Westbrook. Russ scored 30 on the night, but took 28 shots to do so (he shot the ball more than Kevin Durant which--in my opinion--IS NOT a winning formula for this Thunder squad). He also committed 8 turnovers (which ties a season-high). He was still one assist away from a triple-double though.
MISC. STATS: Barea set a new season-high with 7 field goals made and tied season-highs with 13 field goals attempted and 2 offensive rebounds.....Kevin Love set new season-highs with four made threes, 7 assists (just two away from tying a career-high) and two blocks, he also tied a season-high with 9 attempted threes.....Alexey Shved set new season/career-highs in defensive rebounds (5), rebounds (7) and assists (12) while also tying a season/career-high with two offensive rebounds......
How do you beat the Wolves even though you shoot 44%, leave 7 points at the free throw line and turn the ball over 15 times? You hold the Thunder to 40% FG & 25% 3PT, while hitting 45% of your threes and force OKC into 16 turnovers of their own. Minnesota's 45% from three is their second-best shooting percentage on the season, while those 6 fast break points ties for second as a season-low for Minnesota.
The Wolves won't be back in action until Sunday vs. the Knicks. Minnesota will be back at practice on Saturday and Brandon Roy is expected to participate with the team. We should also be hearing a lot of rumbling about free agent prospects the Wolves could sign now that Howard is gone, Lee could be out for the season and the Wolves are in desperate need of help at the 2/3. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!