GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Thunder - March 29, 2013

GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Thunder - March 29, 2013



Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

Email / Twitter

Final: Excellent win for the Wolves tonight, sustaining the Thunder's run and finding a way to handle OKC's strong defense of late and earning a 101-93 win. More to come on Timberwolves.com, but definitely props to Pek down low (22 points, 15 rebounds). Excellent game from him in the paint. We'll have full coverage throughout the night. MIN 101, OKC 93

Q4 2:56: Get ready for a wild finish here. The Wolves lead by five but the Thunder are coming. Durant continues to fill the stat sheet--he's got 34 on 12-of-18 shooting. Westbrook is just so athletic, and Ibaka is another factor. Kendrick Perkins fouled out, and that could definitely affect things for OKC trying to contain Pek. Pek has 22 points and 15 boards tonight, and giving him any extra edge won't help the Thunder's cause. MIN 92, OKC 87

Q4 8:52: Minnesota and OKC going basket for basket so far in the fourth as the Wolves hold a three-point lead with 8:52 remaining. Durant is up to 30 points in ho-hum fashion. It's amazing how guys like Durant, Kobe and LeBron can put up such big numbers without anyone realizing how many they have. It's just so smooth and effortless. Really cool to see. Meanwhile, Dante is back in the game so that's a great sign for the Wolves. Budinger is 4-of-7 with 12 points, another encouraging stat line. MIN 84, OKC 81

End Q3: We'll have an interesting fourth quarter ahead of us here. The Wolves are holding a three-point lead, but Durant continues to shine and Westbrook has shown flashes of taking over the game in the third. Minnesota will need to hold off both of these guys if they want a shot at winning their second game against the Thunder at home this season. On the offensive end, Pek will be key in the fourth. He's 8-for-12 with 18 points and 14 boards, and the Wolves will need to go through him down low. Meanwhile, the Wolves are 15-of-17 from the line, and if they continue to hit free throws at that high efficiency it will be huge in a game that could come down to the buzzer. MIN 80, OKC 77

Q3 5:25: Pek has his double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and he's shooting an efficient 7-of-10 tonight from the floor. Also good news on Dante Cunningham, who is in his warmups on the bench. That's a good sign for the Wolves. We haven't seen him back in yet but I'd imagine he's available if he's on the bench. Durant continues to roll--he has 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting--but the Wolves are hanging right with the Thunder offensively. Minnesota is shooting 46.6 percent, OKC is shooting 47.2 percent. MIN 68, OKC 63

Halftime: Bad news for the Wolves as Dante Cunningham left the game in the second with a right hand injury. He will undergo an X-ray, and there is no timetable for his return. Meanwhile, the Wolves have a five-point lead heading into the half thanks to a strong performance from 3-point range and limiting the X-factors on offense for the Thunder. OKC's Kevin Durant is 8-of-9 with 17 points, but they've limited Westbrook to 3-of-6 shooting and they've held Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin to a combined 1-for-12. The key against this team is trying to keep the others from having big games. Durant will score. That's a given. But trying to limit his shots while keeping others from getting hot is crucial against the Thunder. Ricky Rubio leads the Wolves with nine points, while Pek has eight points and eight rebounds, Budinger has eight and is 2-of-2 from 3-point range, and Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams each have six points. MIN 53, OKC 48

Q2 3:27: Let's stop for a moment and announce that there is a video currently on YouTube from @cjzero showcasing J.J. Barea attempting to dribble through Hasheem Thabeet's legs. Check it out HERE.

Q2 7:55: It's a game of runs, folks. The Wolves and Thunder are trading them right now. OKC opened up this quarter with 7-0 run to take a 30-23 lead, but Minnesota responded with one of its own capped by great ball movement and a corner three by Chase Budinger. MIN 30, OKC 30

End Q1: Nice first quarter for the Wolves holding OKC to 23 points and keeping Durant/Westbrook in check as much as they could. Durant's going to score--that's a given. He's got six points on 3-of-4 shooting. The key is keeping him off the line and keeping him taking as few shots as possible. That's a pretty good quarter defensively. They're currently leading 12-8 in the paint and have kept OKC to two fastbreak points. Pek, meanwhile, has eight points for the Wolves and has been a factor on the glass. He already has even rebounds. Coach Scott Brooks talked about how important it was to handle him down low tonight, and so far he's showing why. MIN 23, OKC 23

Q1 5:43: We're early on in this one, and it's been pretty back in forth as far as runs go. Minnesota opened up with a quick 4-0 lead before the Thunder knocked out a 10-2 run of its own. The Wolves then hit a couple baskets to tie the game at 10-10, capped off by a powerful slam by AK after muscling his way to the hoop. Both teams starting out slow, with the teams combining for 9-of-27 shooting to start. MIN 10, OKC 10

Starters:

Thunder:
PG-Russell Westbrook, SG-Thabo Sefolosha, SF-Kevin Durant, PF-Serge Ibaka, C-Kendrick Perkins

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:30 PM: We got a quick pregame update on Kevin Love's situation prior to our coach interviews, and we found out Love will not be re-evaluated until next week. Originally he said he planned to get a CT scan at the end of this week, but the team said he now will be doing so next week. That's still within the original 2-3 week window he laid out in a previous media session, but it does mean Love's potential return needs to be pushed back another week at the least. He will need to make a decision in conjunction with coach Rick Adelman, the front office, owner Glen Taylor and the medical/training staff at that point to see if he should come back for the final games of the year.

Adelman said he'd like to see him back, even if it's for a few games or a week. Being able to put the whole team together for a period of time would do a lot of good heading into next season.

"I'd love to see him get out there and play, he would certainly help us," Adelman said. "We see guys playing together that haven't played together all year, but we have to go with the team we have."

He said he'd love to have his full roster at his disposal. It would change the roster rotation, but that's a good problem to have.

One bright note for the Wolves tonight is that this is the healthiest they've been in four games against the Thunder this year—although Love did play in the Dec. 20 win. This Thunder squad has been so fortunate to go through the last three seasons without injury, and coach Scott Brooks has said multiple times over the past two years coming here how tough it is to win without your core players. Their top six players (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Martin, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins) have missed a total of six games. The Wolves' team has missed 301 total man games this year.

"Maybe we can find out what their secret is and see if we can put it in our team," Adelman joked.

Pregame 2:30 PM: Oklahoma City’s strength, bar none, is its offensive efficiency. They’re tops in the NBA in points per game and scoring margin, and they’re second in offensive efficiency. The Thunder average 106.2 points a night and are led by the three-time defending scoring champ Kevin Durant.

But over their last three games, the Thunder have become an incredibly stingy defensive club. It’s not that they haven’t had a defensive edge this season—they’re 12th in the league allowing 96.8 points per night—but over their last three contests they’ve held their opponents to 84.0 points per game.

That leads us to tonight, when the Wolves and their offense that has scored 101.6 points per game over their last 10 contests meets this Thunder defense. For OKC, the recent play has been a product of their aggressive mentality.

“The mindset is in place,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We want to make teams miss. That’s the goal every time down the court. Good ball pressure, bigs are doing a good job protecting the paint, altering blocked shots.”

The key tonight will be trying to handle a Wolves offense that is finally getting players back after a stint of injuries that stretched over four months. Brooks said Minnesota is passing the ball well, shooting the 3-ball effectively and being selectively aggressive with their penetration.

Over Minnesota’s last three games, they’ve jumped from 20th in the league to third in points per game, from 24th to second in field goal percentage and from 24th to seventh in offensive efficiency.

Durant said Minnesota has an offense that puts a lot of factors in motion. They have a collection of point guards—led by Ricky Rubio—that can run the pick-and-roll, and there are always back door cuts that force opponents to keep track of multiple options. It hasn’t worked consistently this season with injuries and different players being worked into different roles they’re not used to playing.

Durant said having a guy like Chase Budinger return helps stretch the floor and open up opportunities.

“They have shooters that can shoot, and their offense is so good—they back cut, they run the pick-and-roll very good,” Durant said. “Ricky Rubio is such a great passer, so we have to be on point every possession.”

OKC’s goal in every game is turn their defense into offense in the transition game, so that’s a point of concern for Minnesota tonight. Try to keep the high-flying Durant and speedy Russell Westbrook, among others, out of fast break opportunities.

“They play quick and fast with those small guards,” Durant said. “We just try to disrupt their with our length and athleticism. We get our hands on some basketballs and try to run out. We’re a quick team in transition.”


For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.