The Timberwolves ended a five-game road losing streak and a three-game losing streak overall when they defeated the Mavericks last night in Dallas, 112-106. They'll hope to build off of that tonight when they take on the Thunder in OKC.
That'll be easier said than done, however. The Thunder are undefeated at home, a perfect 8-0. The Thunder are 11-3 on the season, 3-1 vs. the Northwest division, 8-3 vs. the Western Conference, winners of six-straight games and 8-2 in their last ten games. The Thunder are also 7-0 in their last seven meetings with the Timberwolves in OKC. Tonight's game will be the sixth in the Thunder's six-game homestand, with an undefeated record at home, they've obviously gone 5-0 in this homestand thus far.
The Timberwolves are at .500 on the year, 9-9; 3-6 on the road, 1-2 vs. the Northwest division, 4-6 vs. the Western Conference and 4-6 in their last ten games. The Timberwolves' lone win in the division came against the Thunder (with the other two games being losses to Denver).
These two teams met on November 1st. It was Minnesota's second game of the season. They were coming off of an overtime victory in their season opener over the Orlando Magic. They followed that up by absolutely pounding the Thunder. The one caveat: the Thunder were without Russell Westbrook. Without their second-best player, the Thunder lost 111-88. Minnesota led by as many as 34 points and sat their starters for the final period. The Thunder shot a putrid 34.9% from the field in that loss.
A big key to that victory was holding the NBA's leading scorer to just 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. That is Durant's worst offensive outing of the season. Corey Brewer & newcomer Mbah a Moute will be tasked with defending this 28 points per game scorer. Brewer was definitely up to the task the last time these two teams met and LRMAM will most certainly help in this department. Ricky Rubio is currently leading the NBA in steals per game with 3 a game. He'll take on the other half of OKC's "Big Two" in this one.
The Wolves played last night in Dallas and the Thunder also played last night--in Golden State. That game went into overtime and the result was a one-point Thunder win. Head coach Scott Brooks came out of a timeout with a play designed to get Kevin Durant a shot to tie the game up to send it to a second overtime. Durant missed a floater with 12 seconds to play. The ball was tipped out of bounds by the Warriors and after the officials reviewed it, it was Thunder ball. OKC inbounded the ball to Serge Ibaka who missed a 15-footer, but a diving Thabo Sefelosha saved the ball from going out of bounds as he found Russell Westbrook who pulled up for the three-pointer over Harrison Barnes and nailed the triple with 0.1 seconds to play.
Tonight will mark Kevin Martin's first return to OKC since signing with the Timberwolves in the offseason. As a reserve with the Thunder, Martin averaged 14 points per game. He's clearly more comfortable in Minnesota with Rick Adelman & Kevin Love. He's also the Wolves' secondary (and often primary) option on offense and he's delivered as he's averaging 23.1 points per game (7th in the NBA). Martin had just 9 points (a season-low) in the meeting on 11/1 between these two teams. If the Wolves want a win tonight they're going to need a lot more from him!
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
PG: Ricky Rubio (8.8pts, 4.6reb, 8.6ast, 3stls); SG: Kevin Martin (23.1pts, 3.6reb, 2.4ast, 1.1stls); SF: Corey Brewer (14.3pts, 2.4reb, 1.9stls); PF: Kevin Love (24.1pts, 13.7reb, 4.2ast, 0.8stls); C: Nikola Peković (15.2pts, 8.7reb, 0.6stls).
Oklahoma City Thunder
PG: Russell Westbrook (21.3pts, 4.7reb, 5.5ast, 1.9stls); SG: Thabo Sefelosha (7.3pts, 4.8reb, 1.4stls); SF: Kevin Durant (28pts, 7.9reb, 5.1ast, 1.2stls); PF: Serge Ibaka (14.9pts, 10.4reb, 2.6blks); C: Kendrick Perkins (3.2pts, 3.6reb, 1.3ast)
Kevin Durant leads the NBA in scoring, however over his last three games he's averaging only 22.7 points per game on 37% shooting from the field. The Wolves have a number of different defenders to throw at him (Brewer, Mbah a Moute, Cunningham) which should keep things interesting.
Year after year I don't understand why the Thunder don't amnesty Kendrick Perkins. Had they done so and instead kept James Harden...can you imagine how unstoppable this team would be?! Of course, to re-sign Harden, they likely couldn't have re-signed Ibaka, either. Perkins' replacement was drafted this season and in almost identical minutes per game, Steven Adams is out-performing Perk in nearly every statistical category. It will be interesting to see if Brooks continues to start Perkins despite having a much more talented and capable player ready to take his spot in the starting lineup (of course, if that player isn't Adams it could be Nick Collison).
Minnesota made some improvements on defense last night in Dallas and they'll have to continue to build off of that tonight. It's no secret that Durant & Westbrook are far superior to Monta Ellis & Dirk Nowitzki. Minnesota has serious offensive firepower of their own, but it's never a good idea to engage in an offensive showdown with Durant & the OKC Thunder.
The Wolves play on without Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Updates on them can be found under the Team Report header in the navigation menu on the page titled "Injury Report". The Thunder will have a full roster of healthy players for this one.
That's all for now, this one tips slightly early: 6pmCST this evening, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!