The Minnesota Timberwolves absolutely crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. They sauntered off the court tonight with an easy 19-point win, despite being held scoreless in the final 6:54 and without a field goal in the final 7:16.
It was during those seven minutes that we saw the debuts of Robbie Hummel & Shabazz Muhammad as everyone on the active roster saw playing time (Chase Budinger and A.J. Price were inactive tonight). Gorgui Dieng also made his NBA debut, but it was much sooner after Ronny Turiaf crashed to the floor landing on his elbow. The sound of him hitting the deck was very audible on my TV and from those who were in attendance at the Target Center, said they could hear it from the opposite end of the court!
Ronny didn't return and despite how bad the fall looked (Myself and many others were thinking a broken arm or wrist), he was diagnosed with an elbow contusion.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were playing without Russell Westbrook, however they still have the NBA's second-best player in Kevin Durant. Tonight, Durant certainly didn't look like superstar he's supposed to be (and is). That was thanks in large part to the defense of Minnesota's "Defensive Stopper" Mr. Corey Brewer. Corey worked his tail off tonight! He was denying Durant the ball, playing tight, contesting every shot. If Corey can turn in games like this against all-stars like Durant on a consistent basis, he'll get some All-Defensive Team 'talk' come April! Corey was quoted before the game saying that there's no way to stop a player like Kevin Durant, you just have to make it tough for him. Well, Brewer made it very tough for KD as he finished with just 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. In OKC's first game against the Jazz, Durant went to the line 29 times (making all 29 attempts), tonight he visited the line just 5 times converting 80%. KD also finished with as many turnovers (4) as he did field goals (4-for-11).
The Timberwolves are #1 in the division and for the first time since the 2006-07 season they've begun the year 2-0. To put that into some different perspective: the last time the Wolves went 2-0, every player on the roster except for J.J. Barea, Kevin Martin & Ronny Turiaf weren't in the NBA! It's also just the fifth time in franchise history that Minnesota has gone undefeated in their first two outings of a regular season.
The Wolves got going early again and by halftime they were up 59-39. I thought for sure that Kevin Durant would go off in the third quarter and make this a ball game again, however unlike Wednesday vs. Orlando and countless games the past couple seasons, the Wolves not only built the lead they maintained and even added to it! This one was over after the third quarter as the Wolves went up by 29. Ricky Rubio & Kevin Love didn't play at all in the fourth quarter and the rest of the starting lineup saw just a couple minutes of action early.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Wolves were led by their Big Three, each of whom registered a double-double! Kevin Love followed up his 31-point, 17-rebound, 4-assist night vs. Orlando with a 24-point, 12-rebound, 2-assist, 2-steal outing this evening. It took Love just 29 minutes for that stat line, compared to 41 minutes vs. the Magic on Wednesday.
Nikola Peković got the better of the OKC bigs as he got both Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams into foul trouble in the first quarter of action. There was a stretch of a minute or two in the third quarter where Pek didn't look good on either end--allowing Perkins to score on multiple possessions with ease and poor shot selection on the offensive end for himself, but that didn't last long as he finished strong for a 15 & 10 night.
Ricky Rubio made the Thunder miss Westbrook even more as he really took advantage of the matchup vs. Reggie Jackson. Ricky had his eighth career 10+ points, 10+ assists, 5+ steals game. He also forced Jackson into a lot of mistakes. Reggie finished the game with 7 turnovers and looked absolutely dreadful as OKC's floor general. After a game like this, I think I'd take some of his ball handling responsibilities away. Of course veteran point guard Derek Fisher didn't look a whole heck of a lot better. I wrote in the preview that those two guards should be able to man the position pretty well until Westbrook returns. I still think they can, but they COULD NOT tonight!
There were really three reasons that show up on the box score as to why the Wolves waltzed away with this W...
1.) Fast Break Points: Wolves with a 17-2 advantage.
2.) Points in the Paint: Wolves with a 44-20 advantage.
3.) Team Turnovers (Points Off Turnovers): TWolves turn it over 16 times for 8 OKC points, OKC turns it over 21 times for 25 TWolves points. The Wolves had just 4 turnovers at halftime! Needless to say, they were taking care of the basketball!
The most important thing the Wolves need to do is to build off of this win and don't get arrogant. At the end of the day, you went up against a Westbrook-less Thunder team that featured Durant having a rare 'off' night, don't expect it to happen again. Minny heads to New York to take on the Knicks on Sunday and they have to come out just as strong as they did tonight, jump on NYK early and play a full 48-minutes, again.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!