The Thunder (53-19) are currently 2nd in the Western Conference, but they're just 1.5 games behind the #1 San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder have just ten games left (including tonight) in the regular season to close that gap and grab the West's top seed.
The TWolves (25-45) are on the other end of the spectrum as YET ANOTHER TWolves season comes mercilessly to an end. To be quite honest, I'm REALLY sick of writing that same sentence as season after season winds down in Minneapolis. The Wolves have just 12 games (including tonight) remaining this season.
The Wolves are coming off that controversial loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. If you didn't catch that one and are wondering about the 'controversy', you can read this: NBA Admits Bryant Fouled Rubio.
The Wolves have put together their best offensive stretch of the season over these last few games and they'll look to continue that tonight. The Thunder are the NBA's highest scoring team at 106.2ppg. If both teams continue on this current trajectory, this could be a very high-scoring affair.
The Thunder are currently on a three-game winning streak and have held four-straight opponents to 90 or fewer points. In OKC's three-straight W's, the Thunder have given up 84ppg & 38% FG. So...maybe it won't be a game decided in the 100s.
This is the fourth of four meetings this season between these two teams. The Wolves are 1-2 vs. the Thunder this season and OKC has won 15 of the last 16 meetings. Russell Westbrook is scoring 34.0ppg in his last five matchups with the Wolves, while Kevin Durant is averaging 39.0ppg on 56.8% FG in his last four trips to Minneapolis. The Thunder have scored 115.2ppg in its last 11 games vs. the Wolves.
In the first meeting this season (12/20) the Wolves came out with a narrow 99-93 win at the Target Center. Kevin Love had 28pts, 11reb, 7ast & Pek added 24pts & 10reb in that win. Kevin Durant had 33pts, 7reb, 6ast while Westbrook finished just one assist shy of a triple double: 30pts, 11reb, 9ast.
The second meeting this season (1/9), the Thunder won 84-106 in OKC. Durant had 26pts & 8reb while Westbrook added 23pts, 8reb, 7ast. Pek had 17pts & 10reb while Williams added 14pts & 11reb.
In the most recent meeting (2/22) in Oklahoma City the Thunder walked away with a 111-127 win. Westbrook finished with 37pts, 7reb, 9ast & Durant added 27pts, 7reb, 7ast. Alexey Shved led the Wolves with 17pts & Rubio added 13pts, 5reb, 9ast & 5stls.
The Wolves are facing a Thunder team with 'no significant injuries', while Minnesota continues to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip).
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
Ricky Rubio (10P, 4R, 7.3A, 2.3S)
Luke Ridnour (12P, 3.9A, 1S)
Andrei Kirilenko (12.6P, 5.7R, 2.8A, 1.5S, 1B)
Derrick Williams (11.8P, 5.6R, 0.5S)
Nikola Pekovic (15.7P, 8.8R, 0.9B)
Russell Westbrook (23.2P, 5.2R, 7.5A, 1.8S)
Thabo Sefelosha (7.5P, 3.9R, 1.3S)
Kevin Durant (28.2P, 7.9R, 4.5A, 1.5S, 1.2B)
Serge Ibaka (13.2P, 7.8R, 3B)
Kendrick Perkins (4.4P, 6.2R, 1.1B)
Westbrook is obviously a much more capable guard on the offensive end, but hopefully Rubio can lock him down and stuff the stat sheet tonight. Kirilenko is an excellent defender on of the NBA's best and that doesn't mean much...Durant will still probably score 30+ tonight...he's just that good. Lastly, Pek & Perk. They had a bit of a confrontation in a game earlier this season, both are very physical big men, but Pekovic holds the distinct advantage. Nikola is a better scorer & rebounder and without a doubt the NBA's strongest player.
Tonight's game will be decided on how well Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka & Kevin Martin play. If you can take away a guy like Martin and his production that would make stealing a W much, much easier.
Tonight's game will tip at 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!