Wolves Down Thunder 101-93
Web Editorial Associate
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Over the last 11 games, the Wolves have boosted their output dramatically for an offense that has stayed in the bottom third of the league all year—upping their points per game to 101.6 over that stretch.
Friday night was another indication of improved scoring as Minnesota defeated Oklahoma City 101-93—the fourth time in the last five games the club has gone over 100 points.
Wolves vs. Thunder
“What I like about the team is we had a tough game against the Lakers—and we knew the week we were going to have—and we keep talking about beating good teams here,” coach Rick Adelman said. “There is no reason we can't do that. Maybe tonight will give us some confidence.”
Nikola Pekovic fueled the Wolves with a huge effort down low, recording 22 points and 15 rebounds. He shot 10-for-16 from the field and helped contribute to a 44-38 post scoring advantage.
“He’s been unbelievable these last few games,” Chase Budinger said of Pekovic. “Especially on the offensive rebounding, getting misses, being more physical than the other big. He has gone against some big guys in Dwight and Perkins, and he has out-physicaled them. It’s great to see that he’s playing at a high level right now.”
Three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant did more than his fair share for Oklahoma City, propelling the Thunder with 36 points.
“He’s one of those five, six guys who always has a green light,” Andrei Kirilenko said, who guarded Durant most of the game along with Budinger. “The whole team is playing for him. It’s impossible to guard him one-on-one and prevent him from scoring the points, all you can do is be on his nerves, be physical and make him earn all his points.
”I’m pretty sure he is tired today.”
Another benefit of Minnesota’s team defense tonight was how well they limited the pieces around Durant. Oklahoma City scored well below their season average of 106.2 PPG (first in the league), and key contributors like Kendrick Perkins (two points, fouled out) and Kevin Martin (four points on 1-of-9 shooting) struggled throughout the contest.
“I think right from the beginning he couldn’t find that rhythm,” Kirilenko said of Martin, who averages 14.3 points per game off OKC’s bench. “Luckily for us, I think our two guys Luke (Ridnour) and Alexey (Shved) did a pretty good job on him.”
With Friday night’s win, Minnesota moved into elite company, becoming just the fifth team in the NBA to defeat Oklahoma City this year. The win came as a result of hard work and mental toughness down the stretch, not allowing the league’s best offense to get back in the driver’s seat.
“In the locker room, we talked about how we wanted to play hard from the very beginning,” Pekovic said. “We just stepped it up, whoever played was hustling and playing hard."
Play of the Game
Utilizing his long arms and intense defensive pressure late in the third quarter, Andrei Kirilenko stole the ball from Kevin Durant and flipped it up to Ricky Rubio. Rubio pushed it across half court and found Chase Budinger cutting on the left side for the two-handed dunk. The basket pushed the Wolves’ lead to 78-71.
“It’s unbelievable how strong Pek is. I can’t explain how strong he is. It hurts out there in practice if you get hit by one of those elbows.” —Chase Budinger
The Wolves host Memphis on Saturday night and then will take a day off before the Celtics come to town on Monday. They then take a one-game road trip to Milwaukee before returning home to welcome Toronto on Friday.