It was game 2 of the Murder’s row section of the schedule for the Timberwolves as they hosted the hottest team in the NBA in the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Wolves were coming into the game with news Josh Howard was waived due to suffering a season ending knee injury. The Wolves also learned Malcolm Lee could be out the rest of the season due to his knee injury. An already depleted Wolves roster got even worse, the Thunder came into the game without Kevin Martin who was out with a leg contusion.
The Wolves once again started Pek, Love, AK, Shved and Luke. While the Thunder countered with Perkins, Ibaka, Durant, Sefalosha and Westbrook. We’ve talked about the Wolves inability to play some of the league’s best point guards, and tonight Luke would see one of the best in Russell Westbrook. The Wolves showed no signs of being intimidated by the Thunder from the opening tip, as they took it to the Thunder right out of the gate. The Wolves managed to play stifling defense right from the start of the game and it allowed them to take a quick 13-5 lead with 6:30 left to play in the 1st quarter. Kirilenko smothered Durant out of the gate and Kevin Love was hitting 3’s as the Wolves went on a 12-2 run and took an 11 point lead with 5:24 remaining in the open quarter. Ball movement and defense, the key to the Wolves success in wins, were very present in the beginning of this game. The Wolves defense was most impressive in the opening period as they held the Thunder to 18 points in the 1st quarter. Equally impressive to open the game was the Wolves ability to finally hit 3 point baskets and that facet of their game allowed them to open up a 30-18 point first quarter lead.
Starting the 2nd quarter the Wolves had Berea, Rubio, Williams, Cunningham and the Steamer on the floor. As the 2nd quarter started and the bench was on the floor, the tone the starters set with ball movement and defense carried over. The Wolves bench didn’t miss a beat as they continued to maintain the lead that was built in the 1st quarter. Even as Westbrook and Durant came back into the game, the bench’s defense maintained the high level of play and maintained a double digit lead (40-29) with 5:44 left to play in the 1st half. As the starting 5 came back on the floor for the Wolves, they went right back down to the block to Pek, who was just too much for the Thunder to handle as he led all scorers with 18 points in the 1st half. The most noticeable difference for the Wolves against the Thunder was their shooting. The Wolves (30th in 3PT%) shot 5-9 for 55.6% in the1st half. The Wolves hot shooting kept the Thunder from playing their game in the first half, the Thunder were unable to get out and run in transition and it showed as the Wolves went into halftime up 53-44.
The Wolves had 20 assists on 22 field goals in the first half. The Wolves have shown when they move the ball they are successful, against the Thunder, it was no different. The ball movement allowed Pek open looks inside, and the 3 point baskets also helped as it kept the Thunder defense spread out and allowed the Wolves to work it inside.
Starting the 2nd half the Wolves had the same starting 5 on the floor and so did the Thunder. The 3rd quarter started for the Wolves where the 1st half left off, hot shooting and working it inside to Pek. Pek was dominating the Thunder big men, Perkins had 3 fouls and Thabeet had 2 with 8:51 to play in the 3rd quarter. However, the Wolves had 2 consecutive turnovers and the quick scoring Thunder hit back to back 3’s and quickly narrowed the Wolves lead to 5 (54-59) with 7:46 left in the 3rd quarter. Rick Adelman had seen enough and called a timeout. Out of the timeout the Wolves got it to AK for a back cut layup to stop an 8-0 Thunder run and get the Wolves lead back to 7. The Wolves managed to maintain a 7 point lead, but did so by trading baskets with the offense power house Thunder. The passing that was on display in the 1st half continued in the 3rd quarter and Alexey Shved recorded his first career NBA double-double as he had 11 assists and 10 points with 2:39 to play in the 3rd quarter and the Wolves holding a 72-65 lead. The Wolves and the Thunder traded buckets to close out the 3rd quarter and had the Wolves maintaining a 76-69 lead.
Entering the 4th quarter the Thunder went on a 4-0 run and closed the Wolves lead to 1 until Berea answered with an 18 foot jump shot squeaking the lead back to 3. The Wolves defense again stepped up and forced the Thunder into bad shots, and the Wolves offense capitalized. Actually the offense was Berea who scored 8 straight points and opened the Wolves lead back to 11 with 6:52 to play on an individual JJ Berea 8-0 run forcing the Thunder to call a timeout. Out of the time out the Thunder instantly went to Durant who hit a basket and stopped the Wolves run. Until JJ Berea came back down and hit a 3 from way beyond the 3 point line as the shot clock was winding down. With 3:49 the Wolves got the ball inside to Love who was fouled, after making both foul shots the Wolves held a 13 point lead. The Thunder countered by hitting a big corner 3 with 3 minutes to play and brought the Wolves lead back to 10 at 96-86. The Wolves got a huge 2 point rebound put back by Love, and the Thunder got a 3 point play from Westbrook and the Wolves lead was back to 9 with 2:39 remaining. The Wolves defense managed 2 straight defensive stops, and after a Kevin Love free throw the lead was back to 10 with 1:58 remaining. With 1:12 left Russell Westbrook drew AK’s 6 foul of the game, after Westbrook hit both free throws and narrowed the lead back to 8, the Wolves were unable to convert on the offense end. Durant quickly took the ball back up the floor and drew another foul sending him to the line, after Durant made his 2 free throws, the Wolves lead was cut to 6 and the score was 97-91. On the Offensive end the Wolves had another turnover and the relentless Thunder were quick getting up the floor and again pick up another foul sending Westbrook to the line again, after he made his 2 free throws the lead was down to 4 with 12.2 seconds left in the game. A Wolves timeout gave Rick Adelman the chance to get his young players under control, and out of the time out Luke Ridnour got fouled and made both free throws and got the Wolves lead back to 6 at 99-93 with 9.5 seconds. Those free throws were all the Wolves needed as they Thunder couldn’t hit anything else to narrow the gap and the Wolves ended the Thunders 12 game win streak with a 99-93 win.
The Wolves finally were able to hit some 3 point baskets tonight shooting 9-20 (45%).
The Wolves are 6-0 when Pek scores more than 20 points.
Kevin Love, Pek and Shved all had double-doubles.
The Wolves only had 7 assists in the 2nd half after 20 in the 1st.
The Wolves defense held the Thunder to 40% shooting. Durant and Westbrook had 63 of the teams 93 points.
The Wolves bench outscored the Thunder Bench 22 – 7.
The 13-11 Wolves will again get another test as they travel to New York to play the 19-6 Knicks on Sun the 23rd with a 4 pm tip.