Minnesota 123 – 126 Oklahoma City
MINNEAPOLIS – It was an extraordinary night in the north. Just two days ago, the temperatures were below freezing, and it was snowing. Today, the sun shined for the first time in weeks and the icicles cried tears of joy while growing a little bit longer.
When the Thunder left New York after being buried in a blizzard they arrived here expecting to find a Timberwolves team, which it has beaten already two times in convincing fashion, to shoot just as cold from the floor. Instead, the Wolves heated up their play mirroring the brief change in the weather to push Oklahoma City to the brink.
Unfortunately, The Thunder have Kevin Durant, and after a 4-point first quarter, KD got rolling in the second to push OKC ahead, and again turned the kill-switch on in the crucial fourth to strike the Wolves down with impunity. Durant is the Reaper’s Call, Durant is the nail in the coffin, and Durant is Minnesota’s recurring nightmare. The fans trickled out little by little as the Thunder superstar put this game away. As he has done time and time again. He could have had 50 if he was locked in all game.
However, despite the loss, the loss was a good one. It showed a lot of promise from Minnesota to be able to hold their own against a premier scoring team. This was undeniably a team effort. Leading all scorers was Zach Lavine with 35 points, a season high, followed by great contributions from Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl Anthony-Towns. Minnesota found open looks all night to players on all parts of the court. Dieng was a surprising 10-13 for 21 points and nine rebounds as he outplayed Thunder forward Serge Ibaka who looked visibly tired. Towns had a 19-and-13 point/rebound double-double. Wiggins, who had at least five open dunks under the basket, shot 8-for-14 amounting to 20 cool points.
But the star for Minnesota tonight was Lavine who at one point was 12-for-14, only missing two three-point attempts. He finished 14-of-17 from the field, five-of-eight three-pointers. Lavine was cookin’ for sure.
Not often do teams lose while scoring 123 and six players get double digits in the scoring column, but Minnesota’s defense on rotations was poor. Dion Waiters, a streaky shooter, made four open 3’s as Wovles defenders gave up on rotations. Unnacceptable. Enes Kanter had seven offensive rebounds for a 23/10 night. Minnesota did not make Kanter struggle in the pick-and-roll enough. Westbrook was more controlled, than wild, but he was very effective to the tune of 15 assists and 24 points, with a couple clutch shots himself. The perimeter defense struggled as OKC hit twice as many 3’s as Minnesota did. And all 5 were from Lavine.
These teams play one more time this year, maybe Minnesota can use this game as a blueprint of what to do a little bit better to win against OKC. Or they could lose and get a better chance of landing a top 5 draft pick.
Lavine was on fire, and his form looked really smooth. But he had 5 personal fouls and some really dumb ones too. He was responsible for some of the open looks OKC got from beyond the arc, and that has to be cleaned up if he is going to level-up. Still, small steps to improve.
Dieng, Lavine, and Wiggins shot a combined 32 of 44 or 72 percent for 76 points.
Shabazz Muhammed missed some easy ones but he had a good matchup against Waiters all night, he could have done a little more. He finished with 5-for-12 with 10 points.
Nemanja Bjelica had 11 but passed up some open looks, he’s gotta shoot.
Kevin Garnett was held out with a sore knee and Kevin Martin had a ‘sore right wrist’ and did not play either. Truthfully, I think it is better for Lavine, even if he will have good and bad games.
Nikola Pekovic was poor tonight, 0-for-5 with 1 point from the FT line. He muscled up on Steven Adams and Kanter, but can’t take advantage of Kanter’s defensive …’proficiency’.
Steven Adams had three early fouls and sat out much of the first half. Ibaka also was in foul trouble. Both big men looked pretty bad out there as Minnesota had many open looks close to the basket.
Some really great LOL worthy/Shaqtin’ a Fool passes to the crowd in this one. At least two MIN possessions ended with a pass to no one, and one Thunder fast break pass (Morrow to Ibaka) was hilariously bad too. Another, Westbrook lost control of an easy handle and it slipped out of bounds with no one around him.
OKC outrebounded MIN by 12, and lost the offensive rebounds 15-to-12. Many of OKC’s offensive rebounds led to Kanter scoring a layup.
Kevin Durant had a wicked step-back against Bjelica, but the shot just barely bounced out. The crowd loved it still
Wiggins played Durant tough being his primary defender for the final 4 minutes about 2 of the 7 times. One of those good efforts led to a Durant miss, but the other, KD canned an in-your-grill jumper as he cooled jogged back down the court.
I heard some people in the stands chiding Kyle Singler’s outrageous hair. “GET A F@%#ING HAIRCUT, KYLE!” and, “SINGLER WHAT’S THAT MOP ON YOUR HEAD, EH?” Kyle is my name, and this makes me laugh.