Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Thunder
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Minnesota Timberwolves (25-45) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (53-19) — 7:00 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
Got questions during tonight’s game? Send them to Wolves Radio via Twitter using the hash tag #WolvesRadio!
Just two nights after a heartbreaking loss to the Lakers, Minnesota will face another Western Conference playoff team in the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
Not only are the Thunder an incredible scoring team, they are now doing it more efficiently than ever. Against the Wizards on Wednesday, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin all combined for 59 points on just 27 shots. They shot 37-for-41 from the free throw line with only Durant in double-digit shot attempts. Oklahoma City is the top free throw shooting team in the NBA.
If you’re following the league’s scoring title race, Durant has a decent lead with 28.2 PPG. Carmelo Anthony trails behind at 27.5 PPG, but more importantly Durant is scoring at a great rate—he hasn’t shot below 40 percent in 18 games. Westbrook is putting up 23.2 PPG along with 7.5 APG and sixth man Martin averages 14.4.
Last Time Out: Feb. 22, 2013
It wasn’t very long ago that Oklahoma City hosted the Wolves and handily beat them, 127-111. The Thunder shot an incredible 58 percent from the field, led by 37 points from Russell Westbrook and 27 from Kevin Durant. The efforts by their two stars helped Oklahoma City snap a three-game losing streak.
Alexey Shved led Minnesota with 17 points, and Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham had 15 points each. J.J. Barea scored 12 points in the second half. Although the Wolves shot an impressive 51.8 percent, they couldn’t keep up with the laser-accurate Thunder. OKC went 9-of-14 from outside and made all 22 free throw attempts.
"We made a lot of shots and shot a good percentage," coach Scott Brooks said. "I'm not thrilled with our defense."
The Thunder hold a 2-1 edge over the Wolves this season, but Minnesota’s lone win did come here at Target Center on Dec. 20 on TNT. The Wolves have a chance to even up that season series tonight.
Key Matchup: Kevin Durant and Andrei Kirilenko
Kirikenko did a good job of guarding Kobe Bryant on Wednesday until the third quarter when Bryant exploded for 16 points. But in the case of someone like Bryant, there may not have been much that anyone in the planet could have done. The same goes for league-leading scorer Durant (28.2 PPG), considered by many as the best pure scorer in the NBA.
AK is the Wolves’ best and most versatile defender, using his long arms and 6-foot-9 frame to disrupt his opponents’ rhythm. As more offensive help comes back from injury (namely Chase Budinger), Kirilenko is allowed to work more in his comfort zone—as a third or fourth scoring option, glue guy and lockdown defender. It’s a tall task, but Minnesota needs someone to step up and rattle Durant. Kirilenko is probably the only man in Target Center fit for that job.
Injury report presented by TSR Injury Law
The Wolves are back to 12 healthy players with Chase Budinger back in the lineup, and they continue to await word on Kevin Love’s hand. Love said he would be re-evaluated this week to see if he can resume any full contact activities, but there has been no update on that front. Minnesota continues to miss Brandon Roy (knee) and Malcolm Lee (knee) as well. The Thunder have played with full health this season and will continue that trend tonight at Target Center.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Russell Westbrook|
|SG||Luke Ridnour||Thabo Sefolosha|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Kevin Durant|
|PF||Derrick Williams||Serge Ibaka|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Kendrick Perkins|