Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Thunder


Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves vs. Thunder 7 PM - Target Center
Where to Wach: FS North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on 1130 AM.

The Timberwolves showed their grit during two preseason games, overcoming two double-digit deficits en route to a 2-0 exhibition record over the Milwaukee Bucks—including a last-second comeback in Wednesday's 85-84 win at the Bradley Center.

The Wolves will need to show more of that determination in tonight's regular season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team loaded with young talent coming off its second consecutive playoff appearance. When tipoff begins at 7 p.m. at Target Center, the Wolves will get a shot to show what they can do against one of the Western Conference's elite teams right off the bat.

OKC's fast start

The Thunder opened up the season with a 97-89 win at home against the Orlando Magic on Sunday night. Behind Kevin Durant's 30 points, plus 19 from James Harden and 14 from Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City started fast and never looked back.

Durant and Westbrook have been the key to the Thunders' success the past two years, which included a trip to the Western Conference Finals last season. Durant averaged 27.7 points per game to lead the league last year, and he showed Sunday the ability to contend for another scoring title in 2011-12.

"He's a great player," Wolves guard Wayne Ellington said. "He's tough to contain, but we're going to do the best we can to contain him. We're going to do our best to help each other. It's not one guy guarding him out there, it's all of us."

Wolves key to victory: Limiting turnovers

A season ago the Wolves struggled to pull out late-game victories, particularly during the early months of the season. Much of that was due to turnovers, something coach Rick Adelman has tried to address during training camp.

The Wolves turned the ball over 36 times in two preseason games, and Adelman said limiting miscues is paramount against a Thunder squad that will take turnovers and turn them into fast break points.

"It's really crucial against that team," Adelman said. "If you turn the ball over against them, they get out and they have really big spurts. You have to take care of the ball against them."

Road trip rigors

The Thunder did for the first time Monday what Minnesota will do 16 times in this shortened regular season: Play on back-to-back nights in two separate cities. The Timberwolves will do the same on Tuesday, traveling from Minneapolis to Milwaukee for their lone regular season matchup with the Bucks.

Still, that rigorous playing schedule could favor young teams like the Wolves and Thunder. Not only might both teams rebound physically faster than veteran squads in the league, but from an excitement standpoint the Timberwolves in particular are simply eager to get back on the court and play regular season basketball.

"Everyone is ready to play," guard Luke Ridnour said. "Everyone is kind of forgetting about last year and we're moving on to a new season and a new beginning. Everyone wants to come in and compete and work hard."

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