Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Recap: Thunder 135, Timberwolves 128

Highlights: OKC 135, MIN 128

Balanced Thunder Victorious in See-Saw Battle

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson |

The Big Picture

Box Score: OKC 135, MIN 128

Familiarity can be a great equalizer, turning the game into a battle of who can execute better rather than skill versus skill. Saturday night’s game between the Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves was the third time these Northwest Division rivals have met already in the first six weeks of the season. 

After an emotional first half that saw the Thunder take charge with a 24-15 start and an ejection of Minnesota’s big man in the middle Rudy Gobert, the Timberwolves’ play style changed and this game became a track meet. The Timberwolves used an 11-0 sprint in the third quarter to build a seven-point lead, but the Thunder responded with a 12-0 burst in the fourth quarter that turned into a 22-5 run and a lead that swelled to as many as 12 points. 

The Thunder’s offense was humming, with seven different players scoring in double-figures for the second time this season and the team shooting 51.6 percent overall, including 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from three. With 26 assists, the Thunder was able to keep the scoreboard moving long enough to outlast a streaky Timberwolves squad, 135-128 to start this grueling five-game road trip. 

First Quarter

Nick: The Thunder was absolutely flowing offensively in the first quarter, racking up 12 fast break points by trusting one another out in the open floor and attacking quickly in advantageous situations. Using that high-tempo style, the Thunder was able to take advantage in the secondary break too, as Josh Giddey passed up a pull-up 3, drew a defender and swung it to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. The shot rimmed out, but Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Aleksej Pokuševski combined for three offensive rebounds before eventually tipping it in to help spark a 24-15 start in the Thunder’s favor.

Paris: The Thunder’s offense received another boost throughout the first quarter and it came from the free throw line. The Thunder’s downhill attacks and physicality offensively resulted in multiple trips to the line. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way at the charity stripe, going a perfect nine-for-nine in the opening frame, and by the end of the quarter, OKC had gone 11-of-12. 

Second Quarter

Nick: Kenrich Williams was all over the floor, literally and physically during an early second quarter stretch. The game had ground to a halt in terms of pace, with neither team making a field goal until after the 10 minute mark of the period, when Williams buried a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. Williams has shot 42 percent on corner 3s and 41 percent on catch-and-shoots this season, making him an excellent weapon to play off of OKC’s playmakers like Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey. On the Thunder’s next offensive possession, Williams attacked downhill on Rudy Gobert and finished a floater over him. Both players fell to the ground, and as Williams attempted to get up, Gobert intentionally tripped Williams, earning a Flagrant 2 foul and an ejection. 

Paris: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl attacked the middle of the floor and zipped the ball over to the left corner to Lu Dort who knocked down a wide-open triple. On the very next possession, Robinson-Earl pulled down a defensive rebound and initiated the break that led to an easy layup in transition. Robinson-Earl put his versatility on display throughout the night, switching onto different opponents on the defensive end and knocking down shots on multiple levels offensively. By the end of the game, Robinson-Earl logged 14 points and seven rebounds.

Third Quarter

Nick: A pair of extra passes led to Josh Giddey catch-and-shoot 3-pointers above the break, which he buried to help force a Timberwolves timeout and put give the Thunder the lead again, in a game that featured 12 lead changes and nine ties.

Giddey was ready to shoot when Gilgeous-Alexander hit him at the top of the key, then a few possessions later, Robinson-Earl swung the ball up the sideline to him on the left wing, and he knocked down another triple. 

Paris: Aleksej Pokuševski has been a factor on the offensive glass for Oklahoma City in the third frame. On a missed basket, the 7-footer single-handedly tipped the ball to himself for the offensive rebound and kept the ball well out of reach of his shorter defenders. For the night, Pokuševski was one of all five starters in double-figures with 12 points and eight rebounds. 

Fourth Quarter

Nick: After the Timberwolves landed a big punch in the third quarter, scoring 44 points, the Thunder had a response in the fourth. Tre Mann stopped on a dime in a drive, dropping Austin Rivers on the move, but missed the layup. Kenrich Williams grabbed the offensive rebound and the ball went out to Jalen Williams, who buried a 3 to beat the shot clock. That bucket was a precursor to a 12-0 Thunder run to help wrestle control back in the game. Midway through the quarter, Williams made another game-changing play by taking a charge in transition defense to prevent two Timberwolves fast break points. 

Paris: Jalen Williams attacked the middle of the paint and elevated over his defender. Without looking, the rookie dropped the ball off under the basket to a cutting Kenrich Williams who was wide-open under the rim. The play added to the reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Months’ highly-productive fourth quarter as he posted all 11 of his points in the final frame. 

(David Berding | NBAE via Getty Images)

Quotes of the Night

“We have a lot of confidence in our team and in the group of guys. We have great young professionals that are really committed. We have a lot of talent, young talent, and they play as a team. We have a chance for the whole to be better than the sum of the parts.” - Mark Daigneault 

“It's a fun, exciting group. The sky's the limit for our guys and guys are really buying into what we're doing here which is making things even more exciting.” - Josh Giddey 

“We’re a 15-man team every night.” - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

What's Next

The Thunder’s longest road trip of the season, one that will span 5,000 miles and four time zone changes, continues with a trip to Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Monday night before swinging back to Memphis to play the Grizzlies on Wednesday.

The Walkout: Balanced Team Effort

Saturday's Photos
By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder