Last night wasn’t the type of game the Thunder fanatic is used to seeing. With Russell Westbrook out, the Thunder usually display a tendency to build double-digit leads in the 2nd quarter, only to have them completely wiped out, and finish on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Oddly enough, that shoe ended up on the other foot last night.
The Thunder had every reason to be concerned also. Target Center was where they suffered a 19-point beatdown at the hands of the Timberwolves back on November 1st, 2013. The Thunder were sans Westbrook in that game as well. Plus, they were coming off back-to-back losses where they squandered 16-point leads in both games. Simply put, this game did not look like it would go well for the Thunder.
This turned out to be a tightly contested game pretty much the entire way. Although the Timberwolves sparked a 7-2 run midway through the 1st quarter to give them a 7-point advantage (21-14), the Thunder stormed (no pun intended) back to bring themselves within 4 to end the 1st (30-26).
The Thunder then spark an 8-0 run to start the 2nd, which gives them a 4-point advantage (34-30). After some serious back-and-forth by both squads, the Timberwolves end the half on a 5-0 run to give them a 55-49 advantage going into halftime.
The second half was when the Timberwolves started to pull away. After made buckets by both squads, an 8-3 run by the Timberwolves put them ahead by 11 (64-55). Despite the Thunder trying everything they could to chip away at the lead, the Timberwolves were still up 10 (87-77) going into the final quarter.
In the 4th, with the score 92-79 in the Timberwolves’ favor, an 11-0 run by the Thunder pulled them to within 2 (92-90). The Timberwolves tried everything they could to hold them off, but the Thunder had evened the score at 100-all with 4:45 remaining in the game. The Timberwolves had reestablished a 4-point lead (107-104) with just over 3 minutes left, but two Reggie Jackson free throws tied the game again at 107-all with just under 2 minutes remaining. Then, at the 1:19 mark, Jeremy Lamb’s running tip-in gave the Thunder a 109-107 lead, which was the first Thunder lead of the second half. Leave it to Kevin Love to keep the Timberwolves in it by hitting a turnaround jump shot to tie the game 109-all. Lamb then drops two additional free throws, only to have Love tie it up again on a driving lay-up to set the score at 111-all with only 27 seconds left to play. Love was fouled by Serge Ibaka on the lay-up, but Love couldn’t cash in on the “and 1”, so the score remained tied. Then Kevin Durant’s step-back jumper puts the score at 113-111 with 4 seconds to play. I thought the win was sealed. Then, Kendrick Perkins commits a boneheaded shooting foul on Love behind the 3-point arc. I thought I was about to watch another chance at a win slip away for the Thunder, but then the unexpected happens. Love misses all three free throws, which is highly unusual for a guy who averages in the 80-to-85% range in terms of made free throws. Then two Durant free throws with 1.8 seconds left put the nail in the Timberwolves’ coffin, and they escaped Target Center with a 115-111 victory. This victory puts the Thunder at 26-7 for the year, while dropping the Timberwolves back below .500 (16-17).
There were absolutely zero double-doubles to speak of from the Thunder, although Durant went off last night. His 48 points easily led all scorers to take the floor. Ibaka contributed 12 points, while Jackson dropped 10. Steven Adams played well last night, scoring 10, and Derek Fisher even posted 13 points.
Every Timberwolf starter managed double-digit points, and two even finished with double-doubles. Love had 30 points and 14 rebounds, while Nikola Pekovic dropped 31 points, and pulled down 11 rebounds. Kevin Martin finished with 17 points, Corey Brewer posted 15, and Ricky Rubio dropped 13. An abysmal lack of bench scoring didn’t help the Timberwolves, as they managed a grand total of 5 bench points.
There is no rest for the Thunder however, as they have a game at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight with the Boston Celtics. The game tips at 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.