GAMERECAP

Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Game Recap – April 15, 2015

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@thunder-nba.com

MINNEAPOLIS – The Thunder’s game was over by the end of the first quarter, when it racked up 47 points en route to 76 first half points and a 138-113 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfortunately, there was another game that mattered to the Thunder’s playoff lives, and it didn’t go the right way.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club upheld its end of the bargain, handling Minnesota with easy in a wire-to-wire victory on Wednesday night’s final game of the 2014-15 season. The New Orleans Pelicans, however, defeated the San Antonio Spurs to tie the Thunder’s 45-37 season record. The Pelicans held the tiebreaker, having beaten Oklahoma City three out of four times in the season series, propelling them into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

For the Thunder, not making the postseason was tough to swallow, after battling and clawing through every obstacle throughout the year. Injuries, major trades and changes to the rotation all were challenges for players and the coaching staff, but no one made an excuse all season and the team stayed together and played with commitment and purpose for one another.

“I’ve been proud of them all year,” Brooks said. “I told the guys after the game that I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve done all year. They fought every game. We came down to the last game and we came up a game short.”

“We fought, we never made an excuse in a season that we could have easily made an excuse,” Brooks continued. “It’s a great group of guys. They are going to continue to work, get better and come back next season.”

The Thunder dominated Minnesota in the paint 64-42, including a 20-2 edge in the first quarter, and in fast break points, 26-11, the two biggest factors in the outcome. On the night, the Thunder shot 54.7 percent from the field and managed to out-rebound the Timberwolves by seven. The Thunder also made 10 steals, scoring 22 points off of 17 Minnesota turnovers.

Dion Waiters scored 33 points, tying his career high by staying aggressive and knocking down his looks from the perimeter. Enes Kanter used a monster 12-point, 10-rebound third quarter to cap off his 11th game of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, as he finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds.

Westbrook Caps off Incredible Season with Scoring Title

The season didn’t end the way the Thunder’s All-Star point guard wanted to, and that drowns out any personal accomplishments he has made this year. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Westbrook explained that winning the NBA’s scoring title didn’t matter to him and that he would rather make the playoffs instead.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened, and the Pelicans defeated San Antonio, while Westbrook put up another incredible stat line in the Thunder’s victory. With 37 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 32 minutes of action. That brought his scoring average up to 28.1 points, enough to be the NBA’s leading scorer. Westbrook also averaged 8.6 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game this season, filling up the stat sheet in all ways.  

Kevin Durant was the scoring champion last season and with Westbrook winning it this year, they became the first pair of teammates to win it in back-to-back seasons since 1952 and 1953. More than his scoring, however, Westbrook’s leadership was essential to the team all season long.  

“He’s had a season for the ages. He’s done things on both ends, rebounding, passing, scoring and defending that hasn’t been seen in decades, but he’s also led,” Brooks said.

“It’s constantly instilling confidence in other guys, finding ways to make them better players,” Westbrook said of his leadership. “That’s a huge part of being a leader. You have to be able to do that each and every night regardless of how your night is going.”

Stats of the Night

28.1 – Scoring average on the season for Russell Westbrook, the highest in the NBA

33 – Points for Dion Waiters, tying a career-high, on 12-for-23 shooting

64-42 – The Thunder’s advantage in points in the paint, thanks to a 20-2 edge in the first quarter

The Final Word

“We showed maturity. With the injuries and different things of that nature throughout the season, a team could have easily given up… We never gave up. We competed all 82 games. I’m proud of that.” – point guard Russell Westbrook


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