Russell Westbrook doesn’t generate the M.V.P. chatter the way Kevin Durant does, but he may be the Oklahoma City Thunder’s M.V.P. right now as Durant couldn’t find a teammate to relieve the pressure Minnesota applied from the beginning of their 100-81 win, Friday night in Minneapolis. The Wolves dominated the Thunder in the paint and capitalized on over 21 turnovers to build a lead that got as large as 34 before an entire fourth quarter of garbage time — which mercilessly ended with Minnesota going scoreless for the final six-plus minutes. The Wolves still won by 19.
Just like Wednesday night against Orlando the Wolves came out aggressive, building a big early lead that would be threatened in the second quarter. Unlike the season opener’s lull when the starters came back in the second quarter, the lead grew back up even bigger before settling in at a halftime buffer of 20 points.
Oklahoma committed 13 first half turnovers the Wolves turned into 19 points. Six of those turnovers were by Reggie Jackson’s. Early foul trouble for Kendrick Perkins forced rookie Steven Adams into early service. He and Thabo Sefolosha both had three fouls in the first half.
Derrick Williams made his season debut and took advantage of size mismatches to score over Sefolosha in the post, ran the floor on the break and had a nice cut from the corner to score all 10 of his points in the paint. The Wolves hit just 15 of 26 shots in the paint in the first half. Not a great percentage, but quite an indicator of their philosophy.
The third quarter saw the Wolves lean on the throttle instead of giving the Thunder an opening, opening up the lead 60-88 heading into the fourth and Rick Adelman sat his starters the entire fourth quarter.
The Wolves dared Sefolosha and Williams (and to a lesser extent, Serge Ibaka) to beat them by doubling Durant early and often. Those three shot a combined 8-32 to Durant’s 4-11. As much as I’d like to say the Wolves’ defensive strategy won the day, Durant sailed passes out of bounds and opted for passive, long jump shots when he could have pushed his size advantage over Corey Brewer — but the entire Thunder effort appeared pretty effete all night. They were dominated by Minnesota in the paint 44-20.
The Thunder get a rebound game Sunday, in Oklahoma City against Phoenix, but the effort tonight in Minneapolis looked like the type that gets coaches fired. So keep an eye on Vinny Del Negro — I mean, Scott Brooks.
Ricky Rubio nabbed five steals, had ten assists and 14 points on 4-8 shooting. Kevin Love finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and shot 3-5 from three. Pek finished 5-10 for 15 points and 10 rebounds. I wish I could say the real damage each of these guys did was to Jackson, Adams and Perkins, as they seemed overmatched by their counterparts, but all of OKC seemed out of sorts tonight.
Kevin Martin had another rough shooting performance, going 4-11 and drawing a technical foul for complaining about no-calls on some of his misses (and makes). The ball movement slows on Martin’s side of the floor and often when he brings the ball up, it stays on his side of the floor. I’m still giddy about his ability to post up and finish through contact, but the decision-making and improved ball movement would be nice.
Derrick Williams. Showed why he can be alright (in the first half) and then showed how he still doesn’t get it (in garbage time). I want to have a reason to root for this guy more than dunks off lobs from Rubio.
25-8 advantage in points off turnovers for the Wolves.
44-20 advantage in point in the paint.
One OKC starter in double figures. That was Durant, with 13.
Minnesota is 2-0 for the first time since the ‘o6-’o7 season.
The Wolves are at Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks Sunday at 6:30 (CST).