GameDay Blog: Wolves at Thunder - Jan. 9, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: The Wolves fall to the Thunder 106-84 tonight here in Oklahoma City. Shved led team with 18 points, Pek with 17 and D-Will with 14. The Thunder got 26 points from Durant and 23 from Westbrook. Much more analysis and postgame content coming on Timberwolves.com throughout the night. OKC 106, MIN 84

Q4 1:36: Kevin Durant said at this morning's shootaround that the Thunder are very good at looking themselves in the mirror after losses and figure out what they did wrong. The Wolves had double trouble in that regard tonight, because OKC lost its last meeting with Minnesota on Dec. 20 and it was coming off a loss on Monday to Washington. The Thunder looked pretty determined to rectify those losses tonight, and they're going to walk away with a win here in OKC. OKC 104, MIN 80

Q4 5:44: The Thunder are just too much tonight. OKC opened up a 24-point lead after Kevin Martin connected from 3 moments ago. The Thunder haven't cooled down in the second half, and the Wolves haven't been able to keep up. A lot of it has to do with not being able to get to the rim tonight, and they haven't been able to hang with OKC with their jump shooting. OKC 96, MIN 72

Q4 8:46: One bright spot tonight for the Wolves is the play of Derrick Williams, who has really seemed to show a lot more confidence offensively over the last couple weeks. He's got 10 points and eight rebounds tonight in 18 minutes, and he's doing it at the rim and from mid-range. Good to see him continue to build on his confidence, because with Kevin Love out 8-10 weeks the Wolves need people to step up in his absence. OKC 85, MIN 70

End Q3: At the end of the third, the Wolves are in a 12-point hole but they're hanging around. The Thunder got hot in the third, and they've upped their field goal percentage from 28 percent early on in the second to 45 percent here to begin the fourth. Westbrook has 22 and Durant has 21 to lead all scorers. For the Wolves, Nikola Pekovic has 17 points and 10 rebounds while Alexey Shved has 16 points. Ridnour has nine points and five assists, and AK has 10 points. OKC 76, MIN 64

Q3 2:53: It's been a tough quarter offensively for the Wolves. They're being outscored 24-16 so far in the third, and they're really missing the dynamics that both Kevin Love and J.J. Barea bring to the game against this athletic Thunder squad. Love helps stretch the floor and opens up driving lanes, and Barea with his continuous energy has benefited from that spacing. Meanwhile, the Thunder have an 18-6 lead in fast break points tonight. OKC 74, MIN 60

Q3 5:05: Every time I watch Kevin Durant play he impresses me with how smooth he is offensively. Kevin Love once said last year that Durant can scores from anywhere in the gym, and that's not far off. The mark of a great scorer is a guy who can put up big numbers without you realizing how many he's scoring, and he's doing that again tonight. Durant has 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and as a result the Thunder have opened up a 12-point lead here midway through the second. OKC 64, MIN 52

Halftime: Minnesota responded nicely in the final four minutes of the second quarter and eventually tied the game up at 42-42. But Russell Westbrook wrapped up the half with a driving lay-up and a 3-pointer off a Kevin Durant pass that gives OKC a 47-42 lead. Alexey Shved leads all Minnesota scorers with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He's 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Andrei Kirilenko has 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Pek has eight points. Derrick Williams is 1-of-6 from the field, but he's making up for it in the rebounding department with seven first-half boards. For the Thunder, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each have 15 points each. One thing the Wolves will need in the second half is scoring production from their bench. It's been all starting 5 tonight. Minnesota has gotten 38 of their 42 points from their starters (Stiemsma & D-Will with 2 each). OKC 47, MIN 42

Q2 2:52: The Wolves needed a run here as the Thunder opened up an 11-point lead predicated on Minnesota turnovers and getting to the foul line, and they got it. Alexey Shved hit a pair of 3-pointers, and the Wolves started collecting some steals of their own that turned into transition baskets by Shved and Kirilenko. Thunder coach Scott Brooks just called timeout to regroup. OKC 40, MIN 36

Q2 5:40: The Thunder used a 13-2 run to create a little separation here midway through the second, and all of a sudden it's a 33-24 game. The Wolves already have eight turnoveerse in the game, and that's been an issue here in the second. As a result, they're getting outscored 17-8 in this frame. OKC 33, MIN 24

Q2 9:05: The Thunder are starting to heat up a little bit as Kevin Martin and Kevin Durant each connected from 3-point land on back to back possessions, giving the Thunder a 22-20 lead for a moment. Derrick Williams responded with a lay-in that tied up the game, and a lone free throw moments later is the difference in a one-point Thunder lead thus far. OKC was shooting 28 percent from the field and they've upped that to just over 30 percent for the night, thanks in large part to their shooting from deep. They are 4-of-7 from 3-point land tonight and 4-of-19 from inside the arc. OKC 23, MIN 22

End Q1: The Wolves and Thunder are tied 16-16 after the first, with the bulk of Minnesota's points coming from Pekovic and Kirilenko (6 points each). The Wolves have done a good job contesting shots on the defensive end and have held the potent Thunder to just 16 points on 6-of-21 shooting in the first. But the law of averages suggests the Thunder will get hot at some point tonight, and so the Wolves will need to find a way to up their offensive output here as we head into the second. Minnesota is opening up the second with Rubio and Shved in the back court and Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham and Greg Stiemsma up front. MIN 16, OKC 16

Q1 2:53: The Thunder are starting out a little slow offensively, shooting 35 percent from the field, but Russell Westbrook just connected from 3 moments ago to give OKC their first lead of the game. But the Wolves responded on their next possession as Nikola Pekovic picked up an offensive rebound off an AK miss and pounded his way to the basket on Nick Collison for the basket. Wolves are shooting 40 percent and are up 14-13 nearing the end of the first. Derrick Williams has also entered the game for the first time tonight. MIN 14, OKC 13

Q1 5:45: Early on you can tell the Thunder are executing a game plan to keep Pekovic from rolling to the basket. He's being met with help defense from Sefolosha. Pekovic and Perkins also got called for double technicals early on in this one. Meanwhile, the Wolves opened up an 11-6 lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Andrei Kirilenko. He's got five points on 2-of-3 shooting tonight, leading all scorers. MIN 11, OKC 6

Starters:
Wolves: PG-Luke Ridnour, SG-Alexey Shved, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Dante Cunningham, C-Nikola Pekovic
Thunder: PG-Russell Westbrook, SG-Thabo Sefolosha, SF-Kevin Durant, PF-Serge Ibaka, C-Kendrick Perkins

Pregame 7:00 PM: Circling back to shootaround this morning at the Thunder's practice facility, one of Oklahoma City's biggest focal points tonight is going to be how they contain Nikola Pekovic in the post. Pek had 25 points and 18 boards last night against Atlanta, and he put up a 20-10 game against the Thunder the last time these two teams played. It will be interesting to see how the Thunder adjust tonight, particularly in their pick-and-roll defense. OKC coach Scott Brooks said they need to keep track of Pek rolling hard to the basket, and Kevin Durant said it's a matter of help defense on the perimeter getting into position.

Pregame 6:35 PM: Welcome to Chesapeake Energy Arena for tonight’s divisional matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves enter tonight’s game with more injury news; not only did the team announce Kevin Love will undergo surgery on his right hand and will be out 8-10 weeks, but just moments ago the Wolves also announced J.J. Barea will miss tonight’s game against the Thunder (back). That’s a major blow for the Wolves against OKC, because Barea has been awfully effective against the Thunder in his career dating all the way back to his Western Conference Finals matchup with the Mavs in 2011. He picked up his first career triple-double last March in his last appearance in OKC, and he scored 14 points in the fourth on Dec. 20 in Minnesota’s 99-93 win at Target Center.

But the Wolves have been able to overcome injuries all year, and they’re taking that mentality into tonight’s game.

“Our group all year long has been very resilient. We’ve been able to be faced with a lot of adversity and it’s always been like the next man up and the next guy has been able to step up and contribute,” said Terry Porter, who will be acting as head coach tonight in place of Rick Adelman due to personal reasons. “It’s no different. The NBA doesn’t stop for us.”

Adelman is missing his second straight game. Porter was head coach last night in Minneapolis in the Wolves’ 108-103 win over Atlanta, and he also was head coach in Adelman’s absence during a December 2011 game at Milwaukee.

As for tonight’s game, the Wolves will need to find a way to match Barea’s back court energy off the bench. The good news is Ricky Rubio will be playing in his first back-to-back games on consecutive nights this season, and he’s coming off an eight-assist game last night against the Hawks.

Porter said pregame the biggest thing for the Wolves is going to be finding ways to stretch the floor, particularly finding ways to get shot blocker Serge Ibaka away from the hoop and opening driving lanes.

“For us, we talk about attacking this team and it’s all about ball movement,” Porter said. “Strong side to weak side, making sure we do a good job of not getting the ball to stop. These guys are really good when it comes to locking in and stopping the ball. They do a good job of that.”


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