By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com
THE BIG PICTURE
After trailing by as many as 21 points to the Timberwolves, the Thunder turned the ball game around completely and even shrank the deficit down to just one point in the fourth quarter. However, OKC couldn’t round the corner as Minnesota’s offense hit timely buckets in the final frame to secure the 98-90 win. It was yet another strong, resilient showing by the Thunder who fought its way back through defensive stops, second chance points and gritty collective scoring.
MOMENTS FROM THE 48
Shaking off a Slow Start
The Thunder got out to a frigid start against Minnesota on Wednesday. A mixture of missed shots and turnovers fueled the Timberwolves offense who took advantage and capitalized on the other end of the floor. After shooting just 18 percent from the field and committing 10 turnovers, the Thunder fell behind 30-10 heading into the second quarter.
The next three quarters were an entirely different story for the Thunder. The team’s offense found a rhythm and scored 26 or more points in each subsequent stanza. In addition, the Thunder’s offense only committed seven turnovers for the remainder of the game – helping to hold the T'wolves’ offense in check.
After chipping away through three frames, the Thunder found itself in a one-possession ball game midway through the fourth quarter. OKC’s defense continued to force misses and secure possessions with a rebound and with just 5:15 left in the contest, the Thunder trailed by just one point.
It would be the closest the Thunder would get for the ball game as the Timberwolves responded with a 10-2 run to close out the game behind timely 3-pointers and free throws. Nonetheless, the bounce back effort once again showcased the poise and resilience of the young Thunder who will have a second shot at the same team on Friday.
“I just think we were a little bit passive in the beginning of the game,” said Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who finished with a team-high 19 points. “They were the aggressors in the first quarter for sure on both ends of the floor. I think when we just played free and paid aggressive, we kind of got ourselves back to the game.”
“We got off to a slow start, some characteristic turnovers. Guys were able to settle down and settle in,” said Thunder acting head coach Mike Wilks. “I just encouraged them during the timeout, let's be aggressive in transition, let's be aggressive defensively. I felt like we were just a little uncertain to start off, but I thought guys were able to recalibrate after a slow start and we were able to work our way back into the game.”
A Tale of Turnovers
Part of the Thunder’s comeback effort stemmed from the dramatic change in the turnovers throughout the game. After committing 10 in the first quarter and allowing seven points off turnovers for the Wolves, the Thunder outscored Minnesota 18-10 in points off of turnovers. This made a significant impact on the ball game as Minnesota leads the league in opponent turnover rate and points generated off turnovers.
“Coming into the game coaches emphasized and we'll take care of the ball because Minnesota does a great job of creating turnovers,” said Thunder wing Kenrich Williams. “We just had to get settled into the game, be strong with the ball and just stay aggressive.”
Effort on the Offensive Glass
Thunder reserve Kenrich Williams provided his patented spark off the bench, but not just in the scoring column. The TCU product played a big role in OKC’s determined comeback effort on both ends of the floor as he registered four steals and five offensive rebounds for the night.
“That’s just something I try to do every night,” said Williams. “Just trying to get extra possessions for the team and continue to stay on the glass.”
In addition, Thunder rookie Josh Giddey made his imprint on the boards as four of his team-high 15 rebounds were on the offensive end. By the end of the night, the Thunder registered 21 second chance points on 14 offensive boards.
“Those two guys in particular have a knack for crashing the offensive glass and that's another way that we can manufacture offense and get second chance opportunities, especially if you have a slow start,” said Thunder acting head coach Mike Wilks.
THE LAST WORD
Mike Wilks on the bounce back after the 1Q
“The thing that I saw from [Shai] as well as the rest of the team was togetherness. They stayed together. They kept fighting, even when even when we got down the first quarter. The huddles were positive. We were like we can fight back and get back into this game. Let's be aggressive and then guys were picking up and we did some things in transition. We started making then feel us a little bit defensively, with our activity. We were able to work our way into the game.”
“It's good it's the same team. We can go back, watch the film, we know the game plan, we've already done it today. So not much change for Friday. We know what to expect…Friday's gonna be a good test for us.”— Josh Giddey on facing the T'wolves again on Friday
The Thunder will return to Oklahoma City where it will take on the Timberwolves once again on Friday. The team plays again on Sunday inside of Paycom Center against the Denver Nuggets at 6 p.m. CT.