GameDay Live Blog: Wolves (1-0) vs. Thunder (1-0) | Nov. 1, 2013
GameDay Live Blog: Wolves (1-0) vs. Thunder (1-0)
Final: Ballgame. The Wolves win 100-81 tonight over the Thunder. Solid game all around for the Wolves. More to come here on Timberwolves.com throughout the night, so stay tuned. MIN 100, OKC 81
Q4 2:20: This is a good showing tonight for the Wolves, especially with the team going on the road to New York and Cleveland over the next two games. Being 2-0 feels a lot different than 1-1 or 0-2, especially the way they played tonight against the Thunder. Adds some nice momentum heading on the first road trip of the year against two teams that could very well end up in the East's playoff field. MIN 100, OKC 78
Q4 5:42: It's rookie time for both teams here, as Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad just checked in for the first time in their NBA careers. With them are Gorgui Dieng, D-Will and Barea. It looks like Durant will be done for the night (he could check back in, but the Thunder are down 31 so I'd imagine Brooks will go with a younger lineup to get some minutes in). If he's done, he'll end the night with 13 points. MIN 100, OKC 69
Q4 8:55: The Wolves are up 32. Against Oklahoma City. Everything is going right for Minnesota tonight (except for Ronny Turiaf's right elbow contusion--he will not return). Love, Rubio and Pek (15 & 10) all have double-doubles. Derrick Williams has 10 and six. Minnesota is shooting 45 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3 and 92 percent from the free-throw line. They have a 42-14 points in the paint advantage and are leading fast break points 17-0. MIN 97, OKC 65
End Q3: To say things are going well right now for Minnesota would be an understatement. They're up 28 after 3, haven't trailed since early in the first and Ricky Rubio just had a 3 to close out the quarter. Rubio has 14 points and 10 assists for his first double-double of the year. Love is draining 3s (he's 3-of-5) and has 24 points to go along with 12 boards. Pek knocking on the door of another double-double with 15 points and nine boards. Meanwhile, Durant has 13 on 4-of-11 shooting. MIN 88, OKC 60
Q3 2:47: The Wolves are holding OKC to 4-of-20 shooting from 3-point range tonight. Another key stat that we're looking at here is Durant is 4-of-11 with 13 points and is just 4-of-5 from the line. He had 24 free-throw attempts against the Jazz on Wednesday. The Wolves had a goal of keeping him off the line, and they're doing a good job of that tonight. MIN 73, OKC 53
Q3 6:08: Just like you'd expect, the Thunder came out and tried to put a little run together here in the third quarter. They forced four turnovers in the first five minutes of the quarter after MIN had just four in the first 24 minutes of the game. But the Wolves are sustaining and have even kicked the lead up to 22. That's what the Wolves need to do when they get their lead and teams make runs at them--they weren't able to do it against Orlando and it almost cost them. Nice job sustaining the Thunder's aggressiveness here in the third. MIN 69, OKC 47
Halftime: The Wolves are leading by 20 at the half thanks to a couple key stats. Minnesota has a 30-8 points in the paint advantage, and they've turned 19 points off 13 turnovers. Love has 14 and 8 to lead the Wolves in both categories, while Love has 10 and 5, Brewer has nine and Martin has seven. Rubio has seven assists. Durant has 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting. If the Wolves keep up this intensity on offense and defense, the Thunder will have a tough time climbing out of this hole. The first half of the third quarter will be important for setting the tone. MIN 59, OKC 39
Q2 1:52: The Wolves are pouring it on right now up 20. Love just scored in transition on a nice feed from Brewer to give them their largest lead of the game. Moments earlier, Love hit a 3 to offset Durant's first trey of the game. Before Durant hit that 3, he was 1-of-4 from the field and had just six points. OKC is shooting 32.4 percent from the field, and their bench is currently 4-of-12 from the field. MIN 54, OKC 34
Q2 6:16: Lots to talk about here. D-Will is getting minutes tonight (12 to be exact so far) and he's looked good. Nice cuts here, something he needs to do on a consistent basis, and he just made a nice power move to the basket on Sefolosha for a lay-in. He's got six on 3-of-4 shooting. Meanwhile, the Wolves just stuffed Sefolosha in the paint and came back down the court for a transition 3 by Barea. Wolves have 13 points on eight Thunder turnovers. Now the bad news: Turiaf came down extremely hard on his right elbow trying to pull down a rebound, and he went to the locker room minutes later. No word yet on him, but it didn't look or sound good. And at the last timeout, the Wolves honored Seimone Augustus at center court. Augustus came out with the Lynx championship trophy and got a standing ovation. One more note: Shved's 3-pointer earlier in the quarter was reviewed and overturned as a shot-clock violation. MIN 45, OKC 30
End Q1: Great quarter on both ends of the floor for the Wolves. They held the Thunder to 7-of-21 shooting, caused six turnovers for 11 points and forced Durant into two first quarter fouls. On the offensive end, they're getting transition points and are also holding a 16-4 points in the paint advantage. Pek has eight, Brewer and Love have seven and Martin has six. Ricky has five assists. If the Wolves keep Durant in foul trouble and limit their turnovers (MIN has 1 so far), they're going to be in good shape. MIN 34, OKC 19
Q1 6:12: The Wolves are holding their own early here against the Thunder. They had a seven-point lead before Durant drew a foul and went to the line for a pair of free throws. Keeping him off the line is of course key for this team, as is making him take contested shots. He hasn't had an easy look yet, so that's an encouraging sign for the Wolves defense. Meanwhile, a couple nice defensive plays have turned into offense for Minnesota. The Wolves have seven points off three OKC turnovers. MIN 15, OKC 10
Q1 7:16: Corey Brewer with five quick points here in the first quarter. He hit a 3-pointer from the wing, and he also made a pair of free throws. No one else has more than two points on the Wolves team, but the last pair came from K-Mart in transition after an OKC turnover. Meanwhile, OKC is shooting 3-of-8 and Durant is 0-for-1. Reggie Jackson with four of the OKC six points. MIN went on a 5-0 run to create a little separation. MIN 11, OKC 6
Thunder: PG-Reggie Jackson, SG-Thabo Sefolosha, SF-Kevin Durant, PF-Serge Ibaka, C-Kendrick Perkins
Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-KEvin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic
Pregame 6:40 PM: Reggie Jackson's workload has continuously increased during his time in the NBA. As a rookie two years ago, he appeared in 45 games and averaged 3.1 points per night. Last year, he appeared in 70 games and played about 14 minutes per night despite playing in a saturated back court that included Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher. He scored 5.1 points per game last regular season. But when Westbrook went down in the first round of last year's NBA playoffs, things escalated quickly. Suddenly he was in the starters role, and he began to showcase the growth and maturity he'd been experiencing all season on a more national scene. In the playoffs, he averaged 13.9 points on 47 percent shooting. Now, he's starting the season in a starter's role and is trying to pick up where he left off. On Wednesday in the season opener, he scored 14 points in 32 minutes and shot 50 percent from the field.
Losing Westbrook is a big blow to this Thunder team, but the squad is talented enough to endure during the regular season while he gets his knee ready to go. Durant has picked up a little more of the workload, and they have a talented front court in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. But if guys like Jackson can step in and play a serviceable role in Westbrook's absence, the Thunder feel like they will be in good shape.
"It's unfortunate Russell did go down (in the playoffs), but he stepped in and did a good job," Brooks said. "We did a good job in a tough position to be in."
Watch Jackson tonight. He's a 23-year-old who was born in Italy, played high school ball in Colorado, college ball at Boston College and was drafted 24th overall by the Thunder in 2011—a team that has an excellent draft track record. This team should look different without Westbrook, but this is a situation where the next man needs to step up. Right now, Jackson is that man.
Pregame 6:00 PM: Corey Brewer will start tonight at the small forward spot against Kevin Durant, which is no surprise. Brewer started the first game against Orlando, has performed well with the first unit and gives the Wolves their best defensive chance early on against the three-time scoring champ.
There is no denying Durant touches, Adelman said. All you can do is try to keep him off the line and make him take difficult looks.
"You have to make him work and you have to make him take as many tough shots as you can," Adelman said. "If you let him take 22 free throws (like he did Wednesday vs. Utah), you're going to be in a lot of trouble. You're not going to win the battle in the first quarter. You have to defend the whole game."
Adelman said the Wolves do want to push the pace tonight. We'll see if they can get out in transition a bit with Brewer like he did on Opening Night and throughout the preseason.
Meanwhile, Adelman said it is fun to play games against teams that generate memorable matchups like the Wolves and Thunder have over the past couple years. For as good as OKC has been, they've had trouble getting past the Wolves. The teams split 2-2 last year, and OKC won three the year before but had to go to double-overtime once and come from behind late in the forth in another.
"It's a challenge," Adelman said. "And your guys should be up for it, and we have had some really good games with this group the last three years. We've had some really tough games. I think it's always fun when you go against a good team, because especially early in the year you can get a win and make your mark and try to give yourself some confidence."
Pregame 3:00 PM: When the Thunder came through town for the first time last year on Dec. 20, 2012, Kevin Durant dropped 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting, went 8-for-8 from the line and added seven boards and six assists. He did it nearly effortlessly—the way only he, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant operate. And you know what? The Wolves won, 99-93. At the end of the game, despite giving up 33 points to one of the league's purest scorers, the talk in the Wolves locker room was the work Andrei Kirilenko did on Durant and the way the rest of the team handled the remaining OKC players.
The lesson? Durant will get his points. To win, you need to keep the others in check.
"It's a challenge, you know?" said Corey Brewer, the heir apparent to guarding Durant tonight. "If you want to be know as a defender, you've got to try to stop the best. And he is basically one of the best in the league right now. So for me, it's just making everything tough on him."
Brewer was brought in this offseason to be the Wolves' defensive stopper—the guy who takes on the opposition's top offensive wing. There's no question he provides energy, has active hands and gets out in transition. But that alone won't slow down Durant, who dropped 42 points and hit 22 free throws against Utah on Wednesday. You need help defense, and you also need multiple players who can guard him on the ball. Brewer likely won't play every second against Durant tonight.
So who steps up? Rick Adelman said that's a good question. Dante Cunningham's length and defensive energy might be someone you see tonight.
And on top of that, you can't let Durant get to the line 24 times like he did against the Jazz. That just can't happen.
"Nobody has luck [against Durant]," Adelman said. "There's going to be a lot of people with a shot at him. There's Derrick [Williams] or DC, Corey, Robbie [Hummel]. I don't know. Throw everybody at him."
I'd take these couple points away from this post: One, Durant is a once-in-a-generation type guy. Enjoy and appreciate it when you have a chance to see him play live. Two, the Wolves proved last year they can endure Durant's scoring outbursts. They just need to handle the rest of the team. And three, the Wolves' small forward position will again be in flux tonight. Expect Brewer (or whoever gives the Wolves the best chance defensively) to pick up minutes this evening.
Oh, and the fourth thing: Jerry Zgoda asked Durant about the time he spent here in Minnesota this summer (KD is engaged to Lynx guard Monica Wright). Durant said: "I did, I spent a lot of time here (this summer). Iv'e got some people coming to the game. I feel like I'm part of the city a little bit."
Pregame 2:30 PM: Welcome back to Target Center, where the Wolves will face the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM. Both the Wolves and Thunder held shootaround this morning in preparation for tonight, and when it comes to the Thunder and Wolves there’s no telling what might be in store.
Kevin Durant said during his time in OKC, games against the Wolves have either been super-close or blowouts, and the victors in those outcomes have gone both ways. Last year the Wolves went 2-2 against the Thunder, winning both games at home. A year before, the Thunder swept Minnesota but had to pull out a come-from-behind win in the fourth to open up the season and a 149-140 double-overtime matchup in March 2012. That game included Love’s franchise-record 51 points, J.J. Barea’s triple-double and 40-plus each from Durant and Westbrook.
What is in store tonight?
What we do know is the Wolves have matched up favorably with the Thunder in the past few years even with its lineup in flux and its playoff chances not always in view. That’s just how sports work sometimes—some matchups are more favorable than others despite the win disparity. So with the Wolves significantly improved from a balance standpoint and on the offensive end, how well does that bode against a Thunder team missing Westbrook and a proven scoring 2-guard off the bench (a luxury they had with James Harden and Kevin Martin in years past)?
The biggest challenge the Thunder see in the Wolves is being able to contain the variety of scoring Minnesota presents. The Wolves are dynamic on the pick-and-roll led by Ricky Rubio’s vision. They have the opportunity to roll hard to the basket with Nikola Pekovic, pick-and-pop with Kevin Love or kick it out to Martin.
Durant said the key is doing early defensive work early in the shot clock and make sure their coverage continues in their second and third efforts.
Scott Brooks said on-ball defense is critical.
“Pressuring the ball is definitely one [component],” Brooks said. “We have to make sure we do have good ball pressure. The ball can’t have freedom, and when we are into the ball, it gives our defense a better chance of getting a stop. But like any part of any defense, you need all five guys to be active on the defensive game plan. That’s why we’ve been a good defensive team.”
That defense is one thing Brooks and the Thunder hope will help mask the offensive firepower the Thunder lost off the bench. With Harden and Martin over the past few years, the Thunder have had someone who can generate offense and complement the starting five. Without either on the team, Brooks said OKC needs to find other ways to attack.
It might be a committee effort offensively, and then the fall back will be the defensive reliability.
“We’ve always been a defensive team,” he said. “We feel that we’re good defensive players on our team. We have to continue to be that. But offensively we like to score off our defense.”
Adelman said the loss of that sixth man scoring punch does change their dynamic a bit. But there’s still Kevin Durant, and when he’s an option the Thunder are always in the game.
“Losing Harden obviously was a huge decision on their part, and Kevin [Martin] also, but Durant’s just kind of expanded his game until Westbrook gets back and you’ve got two guys that maybe you don’t need a third,” Adelman said. “They are both awfully good. They’re a very good team. Very well-coached. They all do their jobs. They’ve got eight guys who are solid at the jobs they do, and when you have a guy like Durant, you’ve got a chance to win every game.”
More to come throughout the day, so stay tuned right here on Timberwolves.com. Meanwhile, here are some pregame news/notes: