GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Thunder | Jan. 4, 2014

GameDay LIVE Blog: Thunder 115, Wolves 111





Final: Tough loss but another great matchup between the Wolves and Thunder tonight. OKC steals a 115-111 win on the road to end their two-game losing streak behind Durant's 48. Pek finished with 31 points and 11 boards, Love with 30 points and 14 boards and Rubio with 13 points and 10 assists. More to come on Timberwolves.com. OKC 115, MIN 111

Q4 2.2: Love fouled and goes to the line for 3. He misses the first two, tried to intentionally miss the third but didn't hit rim. OKC 113, MIN 111

Q4 4.0: Durant hits a fallaway jumper. OKC 113, MIN 111

Q4 25.7: Love answers with a sweet baseline move and scores. Draws the foul but misses the free throw. MIN 111, OKC 111

Q4 30.6: Lamb hit the ground hard on the last Wolves possession and Brewer was called for the foul. That's his sixth. He made both free throws and OKC has a two point lead. OKC 111, MIN 109

Q4 1:19: Durant finally missed, but Jeremy Lamb flew in off the miss and scored a huge put-back layup. Minnesota trails by 2 with the ball. OKC 109, MIN 107

Q4 2:57: Pek continues to thrive here in teh fourth. He's now 13-of-22 with 31 points and 11 boards. He's forcing the issue inside, getting to the line when applicable and fighting through contact. His latest basket put the Wolves up four. Durant just drew a foul on Brewer and went 1-for-2 at the line, pushing his game-high points to 44. But he did just turn the ball over, leading to Pek's basket, and the Wolves are trying as best they can to deny Durant the ball on every possession. MIN 107, OKC 103

Q4 7:14: Durant has 13 points this quarter on 5-of-6 shooting, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. However, the Wolves just put Rubio back in the game and he found Love inside with a sweet wraparound pass, then Love hit from 3 to push the Wolves' lead back up to 4. Durant's most recent 3-pointer had made it a one-point game at 94-93. Nice job by the Wolves sustaining this Thunder run and not losing the lead, because you knew it was coming. There's a lot of time left, but Minnesota is showing toughness right now. MIN 97, OKC 93

Q4 8:58: Don't look now, but Durant all of a sudden has 35 points and the Thunder are down just two at 92-90. MIN 92, OKC 90

End Q3: Love just hit a couple late 3-pointers to help the Wolves' cause here as we move into the fourth. Minnesota holds an 87-77 lead as Love now has 18 points, 12 boards and five assists. Pek has 25 points and has been a monster inside tonight, while Martin has 17 and Rubio has 13 points and seven assists. The bench, however, has just five again tonight. There's been inconsistency there. Durant has 25 and Ibaka has 10. MIN 87, OKC 77

Q3 2:39: Pek and Love are both producing some really physical play inside, and they're reaping the benefits. They both just fought through contact, hit shots and went to the line for the old-fashioned 3-point play. Pek has 25 and 9 tonight, while Love just recorded his 29th double-double in 32 games with 12 points and 11 boards. Martin is hitting those off-balance shots he did earlier in the year and has 17 points. As a result, the Wolves have a 54-32 points in the paint advantage. Durant has 23 and Ibaka has 10, but no other Thunder players are in double-figures. MIN 79, OKC 69

Q3 9:50: The Wolves opened up the third on a quick 6-2 run and extended their lead to a game-high 10 early on in the third. Pek continues to be a threat down low--he's got 21 points and eight rebounds on 10-of-17 shooting. Love has 11 boards and is a point shy of another double-double. Martin (11) and Rubio (10) are also in double-figures. MIN 61, OKC 51

End Q2: Some nice work from Pek tonight. Rubio just had a steal and led the fast break, passed to Love whose dunk was blocked by Ibaka. Pek was there to pick up the open rebound and slam it home. He's got 17 tonight to go along with eight boards. Love has nine points and nine boards, Rubio has 10 points and four assists, and Martin has nine points and six rebounds. Hummel just missed a shot at the buzzer, but the Wolves are taking a 55-49 lead into the break. Durant has 16 points, while Adams has eight and Ibaka, Jackson and Collison have six each. OKC has 11 first-half turnovers, and Minnesota owns a 38-26 points in the paint advantage. MIN 55, OKC 49

Q2 3:23: Sweet backdoor cut from Martin taking a K-Love feed a couple seconds ago. Marin has nine on 4-of-7 shooting. Meanwhile, the Wolves are starting to really take control of the paint with a 34-22 advantage. Neither team is making nor attempting 3s tonight--both teams are a combined 2-for-12. Much of the action happening in the paint. MIN 47, OKC 45

Q2 5:46: Durant shot 4-of-5 from the free-throw line in the Thunder and Wolves' first meeting of the year and was 1-of-2 in early December against the Wolves in OKC. He is currently 6-for-6 from the line tonight (he is 3-of-11 from the field tonight). Meanwhile, Pek has 10 points and Love just checked back in with eight points and eight boards. MIN 39, OKC 39

Q2 9:35: The Thunder are on an 8-0 run to start the second quarter and have a 34-30 lead, their largest of the night. OKC is getting a boost from their bigs off the bench as Nick Collison and Steven Adams have combined for 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Wolves' bench is combined 1-of-4 with three points--all off a J.J. Barea 3-pointer. OKC 34, MIN 30

End Q1: The Wolves are holding a 30-26 lead over the Thunder as we head into the second, led by eight from Pek and Love (also eight rebounds) and six from Rubio. Durant has 12 for the Thunder to lead all scorers. Minnesota does have some nice energy tonight and seems to be feeding off a Target Center crowd that is exuding its own energy. The Wolves hold a 22-14 advantage in the paint but have just two second-chance points. MIN 30, OKC 26

Q1 2:17: The Wolves just went on a 9-2 run after OKC tied the game at 12-12, and even though the Thunder have scored the last four points Minnesota still holds a 21-16 lead. The Wolves already have eight points from Pek and six from Rubio, while Love has seven boards on the night. Pek just put together a nice little double-clutch layup. Liking that athleticism from Pek right there. MIN 21, OKC 16

Q1 6:22: Minnesota came out with a ton of energy tonight, and it's showing. Ricky Rubio is leading the charge. He has three driving layups in the first six minutes coupled with a sweet pass to a baseline-cutting Kevin Martin for two and an offensive foul drawn on Reggie Jackson. Rubio has six points early on. Meanwhile, Love has five boards and the Wolves are holding the Thunder to 2-of-9. MIN 12, OKC 8

Starters:

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 6:30 PM: One last note before starting lineups: The Thunder and Wolves, respectively, have the top to scoring trios in the NBA (if you count Russell Westbrook, who technically right now does not qualify for the scoring leaderboard). OKC's trio of Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka are tops in the league with 64.0 points per game. The Wolves' trio of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin are combining for 63.8 points per game this season.

No question, the Wolves and Thunder know how to score. Thunder coach Scott Brooks was complimentary of Minnesota's abilities offensively, and much of that revolved around Kevin Love's game and what he's been able to do. Earlier today, Durant said Love's month of December was something nobody really could pull off—meaning how he averaged 30 points, 10 boards and 4 assists for a full month. During pregame, Brooks echoed Durant's comments.

"It's impressive that he keeps getting better," Brooks said. "And that's what you want from all your young players, and he's still a young player in this league. He gets better—his passing, his rebounding is still at a high level, his shooting. He's a great player. He's definitely putting up MVP-type numbers. They have a great coach who really understands the strength of their team."

PREGAME 6:15 PM: Wolves coach Rick Adelman said forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a gametime decision as we near our 7 p.m. tipoff, but his tone sounded more along the lines of Mbah a Moute not being available tonight against the Thunder.

Mbah a Moute, who joined the Wolves earlier this season via Minnesota's trade that sent Derrick Williams to the Kings, tweaked his groin during Wednesday's game against the Pelicans at Target Center. He said he tried to re-enter that night but couldn't run, so he sat out the remainder of Minnesota's 124-112 win. Mbah a Moute was limited in practice the last two days and has maintained a questionable status for tonight's contest.

If he is unable to go, this leaves Minnesota with one less trusted wing defender as they prep for NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant.

Adelman said expect Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham to pick up more minutes defending Durant tonight if Mbah a Moute isn't available.


"We have to find people to guard the guy," Adelman said. "He's going to be on the floor 40 minutes. I think it's really important that Corey is smart about the way he plays him, and he's got to understand he's going to get his opportunities. You can't get into foul trouble, you can't get quick fouls. But yeah, we're going to put different people on him."

In Durant's first trip to Target Center this year, Brewer held him to 4-of-11 shooting, 13 points and just 4-of-5 shooting at the line. Durant averages 9.2 free-throw attempts per game this season.

Adelman said it's hard, but the Wolves need to find a way to limit Durant's touches tonight.

"He can get [the ball] in so many ways," Adelman said. "He can post up, handle the ball, play pick-and-roll, come off screens. It's just, he's just a very tough cover."

PREGAME 3:00 PM: Welcome to Target Center, where tonight the Wolves will host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM. This is the third time these two teams have met this season, with their head-to-head records being 1-1 in those meetings.

There’s never really a good time to face the Thunder, but tonight might be as close as it gets. Minnesota will face an OKC team that, like the first time these teams met on Nov. 1, is without the injured Russell Westbrook, and on top of that the Thunder are currently on a two-game losing streak. Minnesota beat the Westbrook-less Thunder 100-81 back in early November, and they’re looking to replicate that again tonight.

But the Wolves understand OKC has plenty of fire power even without their All-Star point guard, led of course by Kevin Durant and supplemented by bigs Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka coupled with guards Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb.

“I think they’ve learned how to play without him,” Kevin Love said. “Obviously, Jackson has really stepped up. Lamb has played a lot better. I think they’ve learned, even when Russell was back, how to play without him. And they’ve lost two in a row. We know that they’ll give their best effort tonight.”

The Thunder lost two straight at home before hitting the road for the Twin Cities—they lost 98-94 to Portland on Tuesday and followed it up with a 95-93 loss to Brooklyn on Thursday. Tonight marks the first of a stretch in which OKC will play five of the next seven on the road.

But there’s a reason OKC is OKC, and there’s a reason why they haven’t lost three straight since Feb. 12-20 last year. They are able to bounce back quickly, and that stems in part from the mindset they bring to the court each night.

“We’ve got to win—that’s our through process going into every game,” Durant said. “Those last two games, we have to forget about them. It’s a long year. If we had won those games, we couldn’t have dwelled on them, either. Just like after a win, you’ve got to clear it out of your mind and get ready for the next one. That’s what we’re doing tonight.”

So how do they do it against Minnesota? If you look back at the last six games dating back to last year, the Wolves and Thunder are 3-3, and a lot of the games these two teams have played since coach Rick Adelman took over in 2011 have been close until the end.

Durant said the key will be controlling pace, something coach Scott Brooks agreed.

“We have to make sure that we have good spacing and good paced on the offensive end and take good shots,” Brooks said. “We don’t want to take tough shots and turn the ball over against them, because they’re so dynamic in transition. They’ve got a lot of players who can score and that can steal, and they’ve got great passing. So we have to make sure we do a great job with our pace.”

Here are a few notes as we get set for tonight's game.

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 28-68, and are 19-30 at home. The Wolves held Kevin Durant to a season-low 13 points in a 100-81 win at Target Center on Nov. 1, 2013. This was Durant's lowest scoring game since posting 12 points vs. Phoenix on Dec. 31, 2011. In the rematch at OKC on Dec. 1, 2013, Durant recorded a triple-double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists, and added 4 steals and 4 blocks, as the Thunder recorded a 113-103 win.

  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love ranks 2nd in the NBA in scoring (26.3 ppg) and rebounding (13.5 rpg), Only 11 players in NBA history have finished in the Top 3 in scoring and rebounding and only two in the past 30 years (Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett).

  • Love is also averaging a career-high 4.1 assists this year. The last player to averaging 26+ points, 13+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.

  • Love has recorded four 30+ point, 15+ rebound, 5+ assist games this season. The rest of the league has recorded two combined (Cousins, Howard).

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 23.3 points, on 54.8% (63-for-115) shooting, and 10.6 rebounds over the last seven games. He leads the NBA in second-chance points with 5.22 per game and is 3rd in points in the paint with 13.0 per game.

  • Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals at 2.81 per game, tied for 4th in assists with 8.3 apg and tied for 16th in free-throw percentage at 85.6%. He has recorded 3+ steals in a league-best 19 games this season -- the next best is 14 such games by Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. Rubio has 15 steals in the last four games. As a team, the Wolves have recorded 10+ steals in 15 games this season.

  • The Wolves have made 699 free throws to just 421 for their opponents, a differential of +8.69 per game. Minnesota is on pace to record the largest free throw differential since 1970-71 (Denver +7.77, 1981-82).

  • Thunder Notes

  • Oklahoma City has lost its last two games by a total of six points. Prior to that, the Thunder had won 12 of its last 13 games. OKC is second in the Western Conference, 1/2 game behind Portland and one game ahead of San Antonio. The Thunder is 11-4 on the road, 6-4 against the West, and has won its last seven road games, the longest road winning streak in OKC-era history

  • The Thunder rank 1st in the NBA in rebounding (47.09) and blocks (6.22), 2nd in free-throw percentage (81.5%) and 4th in scoring (105.3) and field-goal percentage (47.1%). Individually. Kevin Durant is 1st in scoring (28.6) and Serge Ibaka is 3rd in blocks (2.31). Ibaka has at least one block in his last 25 games, the longest current streak in the NBA.

  • Kevin Durant had tallied 30+ points and 10+ rebounds in his three games prior to the loss to Brooklyn on Thursday where he recorded 24 points and four rebounds. Over his last five games, Durant is averaging 31.4 ppg, on 55.0% (55-for-100) shooting, 9.0 rpg and 4.8 apg.

  • Durant has recorded an NBA-high eight 30+ point, 10+ rebound games this season. He had four such games in 2012-13. Durant has score 30+ points in 16 games this season.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.