Scouting Report: Wolves at Thunder
Wolves (16-15) vs Thunder (26-8) — 7:00 PM Chesapeake Energy Arena
Where to Watch: My29
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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Minnesota finally broke their 11-game losing streak against Atlanta when they won a 108-103 contest yesterday at Target Center. The win was a crucial jump-start for a team that is going into a four-game road trip, starting tonight against Oklahoma City.
Clicking on all cylinders, the Wolves grabbed the lead early Tuesday night and never let go. Pekovic led the Wolves with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting and collected 18 rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko logged 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Williams scored 17.
Tonight, they will visit a Thunder team that they beat just a few weeks earlier. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on My29 and 830 WCCO-AM.
Oklahoma City Breakdown
Oklahoma City has been drowning their opponents in points, scoring the second-best team average in the league with 105.4 points per game. They’ve been successful so far, holding the second-best record in the Western Conference (26-8) and sitting on top of the Northwest Division.
Kevin Durant leads his squad in scoring with 28.2 points per game, good for third in the entire NBA. Russell Westbrook is only a few spots behind him at seventh in the league, dropping 21.7 PPG. Remember the success James Harden enjoyed as Oklahoma City’s sixth man last year? Kevin Martin has stepped in and produced similarly, logging their third-best scoring average with 15.2 PPG without starting a single game. Serge Ibaka is their most productive big man with 14.8 PPG and 8.6 RPG.
Last Time Out: December 20, 2012
Kevin Love made nine of his 20 attempts—including 4-of-9 from the perimeter—to total 28 points and help the Timberwolves to a well-rounded 99-93 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 20.
Love wasn’t the only Minnesota player with a big game. Rookie Alexey Shved dished 12 assists—eight in the first half—and Nikola Pekovic recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
No summary of this contest would be complete without lauding bench guard JJ Barea. While the Wolves led for the whole game, the Thunder crept back within one point early in the fourth quarter. Barea sparked the Wolves with a scorching 8-0 run where he scored every point. After he hit his second 3-pointer in that stretch, the Target Center crowd erupted.
“That’s the best feeling,” Barea said. “I was just trying to get the crowd into it.”
Key Matchup: Russell Westbrook and J.J. Barea
Last time these teams met, Durant scorched the Wolves for 33 points--but the Thunder still lost. Durant is the kind of player that can score in bunches on any given night, win or lose. The biggest issue for Oklahoma City in the last matchup was Russell Westbrook, who suffered from poor shooting (9-for-28 from the field) and turned the ball over eight times. For a player who is so gifted athletically, Westbrook looked out of control at times and gave the ball away at key points.
Just as Westbrook hindered the Thunder last time, J.J. Barea fueled the Wolves’ upset victory. He shot 7-for-13 from the field--including three 3-pointers--for 18 points. Recall that last season, Barea was the hero against Oklahoma City as well, recording a triple-double [25 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds] in the legendary double-overtime game on March 23, 2012. To win against Minnesota this time, the Thunder must get a more efficient game out of Westbrook and find a way to limit Barea.
Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said after Tuesday night’s game that he will play tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder, marking the first time this year that he will play in games on back-to-back nights. The Wolves have been cautious about his workload coming off ACL and LCL surgery last spring as well as battling back spasms over the past week. That’s a big boost, considering Rubio had eight assists on Tuesday against Atlanta.
The Thunder have no injuries to report heading into tonight’s game.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Russell Westbrook|
|SG||Alexey Shved||Thabo Sefolosha|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Kevin Durant|
|PF||Dante Cunningham||Serge Ibaka|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Kendrick Perkins|