Thunder vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Game Recap – Jan. 15, 2016

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Ten times over the first four and a half minutes of the game, the Minnesota Timberwolves got a shot off at the rim. All ten times, the Thunder’s defense forced a miss.

In a 113-93 victory for the Thunder on Friday night, it was a smothering defensive performance by Head Coach Billy Donovan’s group that set the tone for the night, guiding Oklahoma City to its third straight victory and 18th win in its last 21 tries.

 

Thunder wins by 20!

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"Our guys did a great job tonight offensively and defensively," Donovan said. "We had a high number assists and a low number of turnovers. Defensively, for the majority of the game, we played very well. We did a good job of attacking the paint on offense."

It wasn’t until 7:38 remained in the first quarter that the Timberwolves finally scored their first bucket, and the defensive pressure, intensity and communication the Thunder displayed during that stretch permeated throughout most of the rest of the contest.

"They know that it's going to be tough to score. We did a good job all game of making them shoot over hands," Durant said. "We played good defense, we kept them out of transition and we didn't turn the ball over."

"It just sets the tone and we make sure that it's a hard grind to get back into the game within the score differential," center Steven Adams echoed. "We came out with the right energy and the right mindset."

For the night, the Thunder held Minnesota to 40 percent shooting, including just 12 three-point attempts. While not a prolific long-distance shooting team, preventing attempts from behind the arc has been a point of emphasis for the Thunder of late, so it was a positive step in the right direction.

"We did a good job of being the aggressors and dictating what we wanted them to do," Westbrook said.  

"We were running him off the three-point line and trying to get them to come to the paint," rookie point guard Cameron Payne explained. "We have Steven and Serge who are great rim protectors. They do a great job of being vertical. As a group we got stops and that helps our offense."

On the offensive end, it was beautiful, selfless basketball throughout the night, and that was initiated by the stellar performances of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The duo combined for 17 of the Thunder’s 31 total assists on the night, working to get their teammates involved early before the open space on the floor allowed them to get going themselves.

"I just had to make the right play, get off the ball early and it opened up for me later," Durant said. "I just have to think the game and tonight I did a good job of doing so."

The Thunder shot 52.8 percent from the field as six different players scored in double figures, aided by pushing the tempo in the open court and using spacing and movement to generate shots in the half court. Durant led the way with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Dion Waiters scored 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting off the bench.

 

 

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Westbrook’ Sensational Triple-Double

Westbrook tracked down a loose defensive rebound near the sideline and spun around an opponent. Before he even got to mid-court, he’d already picked out a receiver. Andre Roberson was streaking down the right hand side of the court, unbeknownst to the Timberwolves defender who was sprinting back on defense.

A second later, it wouldn’t matter, because Westbrook used two hands to lob a pass from beyond half-court that dropped right in Roberson’s alley-oop wheelhouse.

 

 

"I got out in transition after a great stop and Russ found me leaking out," Roberson said. "He heaved it and I had to go up and catch it. I had to make the play for him... We kind of had eye contact the whole way."

"Andre did a good job of running the floor," Westbrook said. "I'm just glad that it was close to being on target and he did a good job of catching and finishing."

It capped a big third quarter spurt for the Thunder, which put Donovan’s club up 75-54 with just over four minutes left in the quarter. It also marked Westbrook’s tenth assist on the night, and fourth triple double of the season, tied for the second most in the NBA.

On a night where Westbrook eclipsed the 4,000 career assists mark, it was appropriate that he dominated by dishing the ball to teammates while racking up his 23rd career triple double. Westbrook scored 12 points to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists in 27 minutes.

"Russell is a very intelligent, smart player," Donovan said of his point guard. "He knows all five positions."

By the Numbers

31- Assists for the Thunder on the night, compared to just six turnovers, leading to seven different players scoring at least eight points

40.0- Field goal percentage allowed by the Thunder, aided by a 4:22 scoreless start for the Timberwolves

72-42- The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint on the night, fueled by 19 fast break points

 

 

The Last Word

"We were just executing and running our stuff. The way we do it when we go hard, it makes the game easy." - guard Andre Roberson

 

 

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Nick Gallo
Digital Content Reporter

Nick Gallo is in his fifth season with the Thunder after spending four seasons in the NFL. The Durham, NC native is a Vanderbilt University graduate and has worked for the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.

You can reach Nick Gallo at mailbag@okcthunder.com