T'WOLVES 84
THUNDER 106
4 Blocked shots for Kevin Durant, to go with 26 points and eight rebounds

7 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also finished with eight rebounds and 23 points

11-for-20 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder tonight, including 2-for-2 by Thabo Sefolosha

13 Steals for the Thunder, including three each for Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha

19 Points for Kevin Martin, who shot 4-for-7 from the three-point line, part of 39 Thunder bench points

23-8 Advantage in fast break points for the Thunder, who shot 9-for-11 in transition

26 Points off turnovers for the Thunder, which forced the Timberwolves into 19 giveaways

90-68 Point differential in the Thunder’s favor in quarters two through four



GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
Hands were in passing lanes, bodies crashed against opponents in the key and the Thunder played intense physical defense all night.

As a result, the Thunder moved to 27-8 on the season with a 106-84 home victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club, headed by veteran leaders Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, held the Timberwolves to 43.1 percent shooting, including 3-for-13 from the three-point line for the night. The Thunder was better on the boards against one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, and used their physical nature to frustrate the Timberwolves all night.

“We got stops, got out in transition and got the shots we needed,” Westbrook said. “It’s just taking ownership. I think when you take ownership in yourself defensively, I think it shows on the floor.”

A major point of emphasis for the Thunder was preventing Minnesota from getting easy looks at the basket as a result of offensive execution, open passing lanes and quick timing passes to cutters. By being aggressive both on the ball handler but also on the other four players on the court, the Thunder disrupted the flow of Minnesota’s offense through its toughness.

Durant, who crashed the boards and clogged the paint said that stoutness was inspired, unsurprisingly, by the Thunder’s defensive anchor, Kendrick Perkins.

“We just made those guys feel us,” Durant said. “We were bumping them on cuts, contesting shots, tagging the guys when they were coming down the lane. In transition, hitting the big fellas. I think Perk set the tone for us tonight with his defense on Pekovic early on, making him shoot some tough shots. We just fed off his energy.”

When Timberwolves 290-pound center Nikola Pekovic moved up court, Perkins was there to meet him before he got to the lane each time. In the pick-and-roll, the burly Montenegrin barreled down the lane, but he was met by multiple Thunder defenders like Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha, who didn’t let him create a clear passing lane or get to his intended spot.

Pick-and-roll defense is more than just about the two players at the point of the screen, but all five defenders on the floor. On Wednesday night, the Thunder proved it from the opening tip.

“Our job as guards is to be able to slow him (the screener) down as he’s rolling through the paint,” Westbrook said. “The start of the game has been huge for us. That’s the key to us either playing a good game or playing an up-and-down type of game.”

The Thunder proved that starts matter by holding the Timberwolves to only 16 points in the first quarter. Despite only scoring 16 themselves in the opening frame, it was the tenacity and tone the Thunder set defensively that made an impression on the entire game. Forcing 13 steals, blocking seven shots and forcing 19 turnovers didn’t hurt the cause either, as the Thunder’s defense turned those stops into points.

“That’s our best offense is our defense,” Durant said. “Once we turn the ball over on those guys, we get out and get some transition baskets. That’s where we excel, especially in our building when our crowd can get into it. I think we did a really good job of staying solid but getting our hands on some basketballs.”

On the night Brooks’ club scored 23 fast break points on 9-for-11 shooting, in addition to racking up 26 points off turnovers. When it wasn’t getting out into transition and running, the Thunder executed on offense to find open looks.

Tonight, the shots from downtown were falling. Going 11-for-20 from behind the arc, led by Kevin Martin who went 4-for-7 en route to 19 points, brought life to the Thunder offense and helped it shoot 47.4 percent overall. Martin’s offensive burst was key, but the entire bench scored 39 points, a sign of a well-balanced offensive night.

“I think we had a good pace as a team,” Westbrook said. “Everybody got good shots. It was a good flow… (The bench was) a big lift. They shot the ball well. Nick, DeAndre, Reggie and all those guys played well for us tonight.”

Turning Point:
The Thunder led by only three points at 47-44 with 11:42 remaining in the third quarter, but by using a quick 7-0 run, Brooks’ squad build a double-digit lead that would never dip below eight for the rest of the contest. Kevin Durant hit a long two-point jumper, then he made a steal that ended in a Russell Westbrook to Serge Ibaka fast break dunk. To cap the quick run, Thabo Sefolosha hit a three-pointer after Durant recognized the double team and turned weak-side to deliver the pass to his wide open shooter. That gave the Thunder a 54-44 lead it would never relinquish.

Plays the box score won't show, first half:
Perkins bodies up Pekovic early to keep him out of the lane, then fronts him and makes a steal. Durant completely harasses Ridnour up and down the floor, eventually coming up with a steal. Slick pass from Westbrook in the lane to hit Collison on a bounce for a dunk. Westbrook slaps the ball away, disrupting a Timberwolves possession. Wonderful hustle by Thabeet and Liggins to crash the boards. Toughness by Ibaka to force a jump ball, preventing a Timberwolves offensive rebound. Westbrook and Martin do a great job of bodying up Pekovic in the pick and roll as he dives to the rim.

Plays the box score won't show, second half and overtime:
Nice anticipation from Durant to jump in the passing lane and make a steal, then patience to find Westbrook to lead a fast break. Perfect recognition of where the double-team was coming from by Durant to hit Sefolosha for a three. Wonderful defense by Ibaka to stay down on a pump fake under the basket. Great job by Collison to step in and draw a charge on a broken play.



“The defense was good throughout the game. We started off with some solid defensive execution then in the second half our offense kind of caught up with it… Our defense really did a good job throughout the game. I thought that gave us a chance to win this game.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks
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