Thunder Pull Away In 2nd Half, Top Wolves 106-84
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Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant said at the Thunder’s morning shootaround that his team is good at looking into the mirror after losses and figuring out what adjustments need to be made.
Considering the Thunder lost to Minnesota in their last meeting on Dec. 20 coupled with OKC’s surprising 101-99 loss to Washington on Monday, and the Timberwolves faced a doubly potent Oklahoma City team on their home court Wednesday night.
And the Thunder played like it. OKC shut the Wolves down in the second half and picked up a 106-84 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena in front of a sold out crowd. Feasting on 19 Minnesota turnovers, the Thunder never let Minnesota get comfortable in the second half and turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 26-point advantage in the fourth.
Wolves at Thunder
The Wolves played an exceptional first quarter on the defensive end, contesting shots and holding the potent Thunder squad to 28 percent shooting. And when OKC went on a 13-2 run to take a seven-point lead in the second quarter, Minnesota responded in kind to make it a four-point game with three minutes to go in the half. A lot of that had to do with Alexey Shved’s play in that second quarter. He hit consecutive 3-pointers with 3 ½ minutes to play in the frame, and in one stretch he accounted for 10 of the Wolves’ 12 points.
The second half was a different story.
Oklahoma City shot 58 percent in the third quarter, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range while the Wolves went 0-of-4 from behind the arc. And immediately out of halftime it appeared the Thunder were in position to create separation on the scoreboard.
“They got off to a good start, hit some 3s and we just weren’t able to recover,” guard Luke Ridnour said.
Much of that had to do with Durant, who put together another efficient game on the offensive end. He finished with 26 points and shot 10-of-17 from the field, and he added eight rebounds, three assists, four blocks and three steals. Russell Westbrook was equally effective, scoring 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting and adding eight boards and seven assists.
The Wolves got big nights from their starters, including 18 points from Shved and a double-double from center Nikola Pekovic. Luke Ridnour scored nine points and added six assists and four steals, and Andrei Kirilenko had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. Derrick Williams was a spark off the bench, scoring 14 points and adding 11 rebounds on the night.
Leader of the Pack: Nikola Pekovic
The Thunder put together a game plan that attempted to limit Nikola Pekovic’s ability to get to the basket on pick-and-rolls, and for the most part they were successful in doing so. But Pekovic still found a way to be productive throughout the night, and he compiled a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds against this stingy Thunder squad. Pek shot 60 percent for the game and made his foul shots when they sent him to the line—he finished 5-of-6 from the stripe.
Highlight of the Night
With 7:25 left in the second quarter and the Thunder on a 7-0 run that turned a tie game into a 29-22 OKC lead, Wolves guard Alexey Shved saw an opportunity on the defensive end. Moving off his man, Shved made a break behind Thunder guard Reggie Jackson, stole the ball and scored on the other end with a transition jam. The steal was part of a big second quarter for Shved and gave Minnesota life as it tried to withstand OKC’s run.
The Numbers Game
“You can tell they lost the last game because they were playing aggressive and that’s what a championship team does after a loss. They get together and they get even more aggressive than they used to.” — Wolves guard Ricky Rubio on the Thunder bouncing back from Monday’s loss to Washington
The Timberwolves will have an off day tomorrow in New Orleans before taking on the Hornets on Friday at 7 p.m. They’ll get a day off Saturday before wrapping up this four-game road trip in San Antonio on Sunday and Dallas on Monday.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.