Wolves vs. Thunder Gameday
Final: 129-87 Wolves
The Wolves have now won four straight games for the first time since 2007 along with winning six of their last eight games. Foye’s 18-point first quarter paved the way for an impressive victory over the Thunder with Minnesota shooting 52.2 percent on the night. With 32 points, Foye matched a career-high and finished 10-of-16 from the field. The 72 first half points were a season high for the squad in its 10th win of the season. Foye also helped Minnesota shoot 12-of-28 from the 3-point line and Jefferson added 21 points to give the Wolves a 62-40 advantage in the paint. Westbrook tallied 12 assists for a new career-high but the Thunder fell to a league-worst 5-31.
More postgame coming soon…
Third Quarter: 98-66 Wolves
The Wolves did not step off the gas with a 9-2 run to start the third period. Minnesota has reached the free throw line 20 times, in contrast to only nine attempts for Oklahoma City. Foye hit another contested 3-point shot and he now has 31 points on the night. The field goal percentage fell to 53.8 after a couple of empty possessions from the Wolves. Inside the paint, Minnesota has outscored Oklahoma City 44-24. The Wolves have already surpassed their points per game average with 98 points. Westbrook gave the Thunder a bit of an offensive lift in the third quarter with five points.
Halftime: 72-43 Wolves
Foye can’t miss…ok, he missed two shots. The Wolves guard scored eight points in the quarter to increase his total to 26 points in the first half. Foye is well on his way to crushing his career-high of 32 points. Minnesota is thoroughly outplaying Oklahoma City tonight, especially in the paint with a 28-12 advantage. The passes are crisp and the offense is flowing for the Wolves. Despite my scouting report earlier today, Collison did suit up for the Thunder and entered the game a couple of minutes into the second quarter. Durant finally hit his first shot at the five minute mark but Oklahoma City can’t establish any consistency on offense by shooting 38 percent from the field. Minnesota relinquished a 29-point lead early in the third quarter to Dallas last week. With another 29-point lead, the Wolves will look to focus on not allowing another monumental collapse.
First Quarter: 42-24 Wolves
McHale spoke about the importance of a strong start to the game tonight. The head man got exactly what he was looking for as the Wolves jumped out to a 9-2 lead. Foye continues to be on a torrid pace with 18 points in the quarter on 6-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 from the 3-point line. Minnesota shot 75 percent from the field and have now registered at least 30-points in the first quarter of back-to-back games. For Oklahoma City, Durant struggled by missing all five of his attempts from the field. Green provided the offense for the Thunder with nine points. An absolute dominate first quarter performance from the Wolves is a great sign for a team searching for its first four-game winning streak since 2007.
Pregame News and Notes: 6:45 PM
Oklahoma City will play Nenad Kristic after signing the former center for the Nets two weeks ago. Brooks has been hesitant to play Kristic because of his limited time with the team. During the offseason, Kristic signed a two-year deal with a Russian League team but decided to return to the NBA in December.
The Thunder also made a trade with the Nuggets tonight that sent guard Chucky Atkins, cash considerations, and a first-round pick for Oklahoma City forward Johan Petro and second-round pick.
Wolves Pregame Audio
Head coach Kevin McHale
Thunder Pregame Audio
Head coach Scott Brooks
Russell Westbrook, Robert Swift, Jeff Green, and Kevin Durant Montage
Over two months ago, the Thunder earned their first victory of the season against the Wolves at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook lifted the Thunder to an 88-85 win with the go-ahead bucket in that first meeting. Under former head coach Randy Wittman, Minnesota suffered its second defeat of the year and were outrebounded 50-38. Al Jefferson scored 24 points and grabbed 13 boards in the loss while Nick Collison led the Thunder with a double-double performance.
The Wolves would knot the series at 1-1 in the second contest in Oklahoma City. Another nail-bitter, Minnesota received a clutch, last-second shot from Mike Miller to hand the Wolves a 105-103 victory. A key substitution occurred in the start of the second half as Wittman replaced Jason Collins with Craig Smith. Minnesota reacted with a 17-6 run out of the locker room and held a nine-point lead at the end of the third quarter. Smith finished with 23 points off the bench and Chris Wilcox scored 21 points for the Thunder. After the November 28 game, the Wolves held a 4-10 record and Oklahoma City dropped to 1-10 on the season.
For the first time this year, Minnesota will host the Thunder at the Target Center. At 5-30, Oklahoma City is the worst team in the league but fresh off a big 107-99 victory over the Knicks on Tuesday night. The Thunder feature a starting lineup with three top five draft picks over the past three years. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook form the nucleus of a young team in its first season in Oklahoma City after relocating from Seattle. The Thunder rank 26th in the league in scoring at 94.7 points per game and struggle defensively by allowing 102.7 points per game. Similar to Minnesota, a coaching change was made early in the season with Scott Brooks taking over for P.J. Carlesimo just six days before the Wolves and Thunder met on November 28. As the head coach, Brooks has compiled a 4-17 record for Oklahoma City.
In the backcourt, the Thunder will start Westbrook and Desmond Mason. Minnesota has yet to face this particular combination of guards with Oklahoma City adjusting its lineup several times throughout the season. Westbrook had a breakout game against the Phoenix Suns last month with 31 points and five assists. The rookie out of UCLA has combined for 29 points in two games against the Wolves. Mason will not make a huge impact in the box score but can elevate the play of his team with high-flying dunks on the fast break. At 6-foot-5, Mason will match up opposite of Randy Foye and the advantage should favor Foye with his recent scoring surge.
Oklahoma City relies on its frontcourt for scoring and 3-point production. Both Durant and Green are not the prototypical forwards as both players like to score from the perimeter. On the 3-point line, Durant hits 43 percent from the arc and averages 20 points a game against Minnesota. The Wolves will have to adjust to the athletic talents of both Oklahoma City forwards. If Minnesota can limit the offense from Durant and Green, a victory should be within reach tonight at the Target Center. Robert Swift replaced Nick Collison in the starting lineup after Collison suffered a broken thumb over two weeks ago. With Collison out until later this week, Swift will have the difficult challenge in guarding the NBA Player of the Week, Al Jefferson. Again, the Wolves should be able to establish a strong scoring presence inside the paint. The focus will have to come at the defensive side of the floor with Craig Smith and Gomes guarding Durant and Green. Tipoff set for 7 PM at the Target Center.
Russell Westbrook, PG
Desmond Mason, SG
Kevin Durant, SF
Jeff Green, PF
Robert Swift, C
Sebastian Telfair, PG
Randy Foye, SG
Ryan Gomes, SF
Craig Smith, PF
Al Jefferson, C