Timberwolves Wrap: Wolves rally falls just short

Jan 12, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is guarded by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) during the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Thunder defeated the Timberwolves 101-96. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is guarded by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) during the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Thunder defeated the Timberwolves 101-96. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Thunder escaped with a narrow victory at Target Center after a furious Timberwolves comeback ultimately fell short.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 30 points and seven rebounds, including carrying the offense in the final few minutes after breaking free from his game-long shooting slump. Russell Westbrook chipped in with a stat line of 22 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds, but also committed seven turnovers.

The Thunder started the game on a tear, jumping out on a 14-0 run after the Wolves took an early 2-1 lead. The Wolves were very sloppy in the first quarter, and Ricky Rubio was uncharacteristically at the center of that. He committed three turnovers in the first quarter, and the Thunder took advantage to lead 32-21 after the first.

The second unit made a nice push spanning the first and second quarters, giving a nice burst of offense that the starters couldn’t provide. Enes Kanter helped the Thunder keep the lead during this stretch with Durant and Westbrook on the bench, torching the Wolves for 12 points in just eight minutes in the first half.

The first half was ugly for the Wolves, with 11 turnovers and multiple blown fast breaks. However, the lead didn’t grow much in the second quarter, with the Wolves’ second unit keeping pace with the Thunder. A Russell Westbrook buzzer-beating three put the Thunder’s lead at 60-48 at half.

The starters finally got it going in the third, and along with the bench kept the Thunder from stretching the lead to an unreachable amount. The Wolves offense was occasionally ugly again in the period, but the Thunder missed some shots that they normally hit and the Wolves were trailing by 14 heading into the fourth.

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The Wolves’ second unit then started on an inspiring comeback in the fourth quarter. The lineup of Zach LaVineShabazz MuhammadAndrew WigginsNemanja BjelicaGorgui Dieng played for the majority of the quarter and helped the Wolves get within 10 with 6:30 left. Westbrook and Durant came back in at this point, and it seemed like they were primed to finish this game once and for all.

What happened next, however, was quite the opposite. The Wolves continued to gamely pound away and used a 17-5 run to get the lead down to three points with three minutes left after a Wiggins dunk. It was at this point where Durant broke out of his slump and proceeded to hit jumpers on four out of the Thunder’s next five possessions.

The Wolves kept trading baskets, however, with LaVine hitting a deeeeep three and Wiggins draining a couple of free throws to keep the lead at just three with eight seconds remaining. The Wolves then had to foul, though, and Durant sealed the game away by connecting on all four of his free throw attempts in those final seconds.

Nevertheless, this was a great game to see from the Wolves. After losing six in a row, including some embarrassing performances, they stepped up to the challenge and didn’t let the Thunder run away with this one despite the large gulf in talent.

After the Thunder’s 14-0 run at the beginning of the game, the Wolves battled them valiantly the rest of the way, including outscoring them by 9 in the fourth quarter. The schedule doesn’t get any easier in the coming week, but hopefully the Wolves get some of their confidence back after this game.

Tweet/Clip of the Night

This was a crazy sequence that initially was called a basket. The refs reviewed it though, and once they noticed that it bounced off of the shot clock support, they called the basket off and LaVine got two free throws instead.

Still, it was a crazy play near the end of a tense game that provided some laughs for players, announcers, and fans alike.

Star of the Night

Kevin Durant – 30 points (11-25 FG, 2-9 3P, 6-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists

Durant didn’t start the game out looking like himself, hitting on only 7 of his first 21 shot attempts. However, it’s hard to keep Durant contained like that for long, and he flipped the switch in the clutch to keep the Wolves from getting closer than 3 points.

He finished the game by going 4-4 from the field and 4-4 from the line in the final 2:54 to seal the game.

Shabazz Muhammad nearly earned himself this spot with his play. He couldn’t be stopped in the first half, garnering 14 points in just 17 minutes.

Muhammad kept the Wolves within shouting distance the whole game, and was on the floor at the end when the Wolves rallied. He has continued to elevate his play for the second consecutive season, and he should be getting more recognition as this keeps up.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

Zach LaVine – 21 points (7-12 FG, 3-4 3P, 4-6 FT), 9 rebounds, 4 assists

Karl-Anthony Towns – 14 points (6-14 FG, 2-2 FT), 10 rebounds, 1 assist

Shabazz Muhammad – 20 points (8-15 FG, 1-4 3P, 3-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists

Who’s Next

The Wolves will fly to Houston tonight to take on the Rockets Wednesday night in the second half of a back-to-back.

The Rockets are a disappointing 20-19 on the season, but they have now won 4 straight after beating the Grizzlies tonight. This means that the Rockets will also be on the back end of a back-to-back, and maybe the Wolves can catch them while they’re tired and expecting an easy game.

Next: On The Timberwolves Rebounding Troubles

The Rockets have more talent than the Wolves, but hopefully the Wolves can use their game tonight as a springboard and realize that they can play at a high level. Check back tomorrow for the Rockets game preview and more content here at Dunking With Wolves.