Russell Westbrook wasn’t the only inactive player in last night’s contest. Corey Brewer was not with the team last night, but he had a son recently, so he has a good reason to not be there. Also, Nikola Pekovic left the Jan. 27 contest in Chicago against the Bulls in quarter #1 due to bursitis (the swelling and irritation of a bursa. Bursa: a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between muscles, tendons, and joints.) in his right ankle. He’s missed the past four games as a result, and there is no timetable set for his return. Seeing as the Timberwolves were already down two starters, the last-minute decision to sit Kevin Love due to a stiff neck could not have been an easy one.
You have to give the Timberwolves credit, they played just as hard as if all three of their injured starters were dressed to play. Although Scott Brooks saw this coming: “I knew they’d play scrappy with three starters out. A wounded team generally steps up.” And step up is exactly what they did.
The 1st was very back-and-forth, with the largest lead for either side being the Thunder’s 7 (22-15 at the 3:19 mark).
The largest lead in the 2nd quarter was the Timberwolves’ 6 (39-33 at the 5:50 mark).
The 3rd quarter was the closest one, with the largest lead being a mere 4 for the Thunder (The 4-point lead was on numerous occasions in the 3rd, so I can’t pin down just one.). The Timberwolves even had the game tied at 77-all with 8.3 seconds remaining in the 3rd.
It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that the Thunder were able to create some breathing room for themselves. A Derek Fisher 3-pointer as the game clock expired in the 3rd sparked a 16-4 run for the Thunder, and actually pushed their lead to 12 (93-81) with 7:17 to play. Once that run ended, the Timberwolves were out of it. They did manage to pull within 7 at one point (97-90 with 2:27 on the game clock), but that was as close as they could get, as the Thunder were able to keep them at arm’s length until the final buzzer. The 106-97 final score gives the Thunder a 3-1 season series win over the Timberwolves, and jumps their overall record to 40-11, while dropping the Timberwolves to the wrong side of .500 (24-25).
Kevin Durant’s 26 points led all scorers to take the floor, but he had a ton of help. Serge Ibaka dropped 14 points, Thabo Sefolosha had 12, and Reggie Jackson exploded for 20 points last night. Fisher added 13 from the Thunder bench, and even Kendrick Perkins was in “board beast mode” last night, pulling down 12 rebounds.
Ricky Rubio’s 19 points led the Timberwolves, but Dante Cunningham did good as well, adding 18 points filling in for Love. Jose Juan Barea was even good for 11 points off of the Timberwolves bench.
This is the Thunder’s 8th consecutive home victory, and 9th straight against the Timberwolves in OKC. They no longer have to even think about the Timberwolves anymore, as their season series is officially concluded. Now they get ready to travel to the Amway Center in Orlando, FL to lock horns with the Magic. The Thunder will be looking for the sweep as they edged out the Magic for the Dec. 15th victory by a score of 101-98. The Magic, on the other hand, will be looking for the series split, seeing as this is their final matchup of the season. Tip-off is scheduled for Friday, 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.