Notebook: Timberwolves 101, Thunder 93

Posted Mar 29, 2013 11:53 PM

By Peter Kapsner, for

THE FACTS: The Oklahoma City Thunder stumbled in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference, losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-93 on Friday.

Nikola Pekovic led the Wolves (26-45) with 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio chipped in with 17 points, seven assists and four steals. Kevin Durant led the way for the Thunder (53-20) with 36 points.

The game was tight throughout the night with neither team managing a double-digit lead until the Wolves went up by 11 with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter. The teams traded mini-runs from there before the Wolves put the game away with a late 5-0 burst, featuring a critical tip-in by Pekovic to move back up by 10 with a minute left. The loss pushed the Thunder 2.5 games back of the West-leading San Antonio Spurs.

TURNING POINT: The Thunder went on a quick 6-0 run to pull within five with 3:31 left. They got a defensive stop and looked to assert themselves against the suddenly reeling Wolves, but Rubio stole the ball from Durant on a spin move and fed Andrei Kirilenko who was fouled on a layup. Kirilenko went just 1-for-2, but it slowed the momentum as the Wolves made their 5-0 move to put the game away.

QUOTABLE: "We tried to be more aggressive and tried to trap [Durant]. He likes that move when he reverses and he draws a lot of fouls, so it was a little risky. I got lucky and could get the steal and that helped us."

--Ricky Rubio on his crucial steal of Durant

THE STAT: The 101 points scored by the Wolves are part of a recent offensive surge where they've averaged just over 100 points over their past 11 games. In seven games previous to this streak, the Wolves were limited to just 86.3 points per game, and the Thunder had limited their last three opponents to just 85.7 points per game. But the Wolves attacked the Thunder for all 48 minutes tonight.

QUOTABLE II: "They came out and executed their offense and it was tough to stop.They move the ball so well and spread you out and pick-and-roll, and they got so many great passers and slashers and shooters. You really have to be on point every minute of the game against them. You can't have any mistakes because they execute on it all."

--Kevin Durant on the Timberwolves offense tonight

HOT: Pekovic continues to be a beast inside for the Wolves. After rolling for 18 points and 11 boards in a blow-out of Detroit last Tuesday, he went toe-to-toe with Dwight Howard on Wednesday, going off for 19 points and 16 boards. Kendrick Perkins didn't fare any better tonight against the big Grecian. He fouled out with just two points and five rebounds.

QUOTABLE III: "[Pekovic] was a handful for them. They really didn't have an answer for him and he took advantage of it."

--Wolves coach Rick Adelman on Pekovic's dominant interior play

NOT: Kevin Martin. After hitting double figures in each of his past five games, Martin finished the evening with just four points on 1-for-9 shooting. He was 0-for-6 with three fouls in eight first-half minutes.

GOOD MOVE: Adelman played back-up point guard J.J. Barea for 16 minutes in the first half while Rubio played only 10. Rubio was limited to 28 minutes against the Lakers on Wednesday because of foul trouble, and picked up two first-half fouls tonight. By sitting Rubio and avoiding a third foul, the Wolves had their star guard for 20 of 24 minutes in the second half of a tight game.

FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: In leagues needing a consistent source of rebounds, Pekovic returned from injury eight games ago and has given owners a huge boost in that category.

NOTABLE: Kevin Love remains out with a broken hand, and his planned CT scan was delayed to next week. There is no timetable for his return. ... Oklahoma City is now 9-4 on the front-end of back-to-backs this season and has completed just five "sweeps" so far. They swept nine such series last year. ... Russell Westbrook played in his 385th consecutive game -- the longest active games played streak in the NBA. He has never missed a game for the Thunder, nor did he miss a game in college with UCLA. ... With the win, Adelman is just three games shy of 1,000 career victories. Only seven coaches have achieved that plateau in NBA history. ...The Wolves join the Spurs, Nuggets, Heat, and Grizzlies as one of five teams to beat the Thunder twice this year.

UP NEXT: For the Thunder, Saturday @ Milwaukee, Thursday vs. San Antonio, Friday @ Indiana. For the Wolves, Saturday vs. Memphis, Monday vs. Boston, Wednesday @ Milwaukee.