Really there wasn’t a ton of doubt about the outcome coming in. Without Kevin Love, the Thunder had every reason to take care of the Timberwolves Friday night in Oklahoma City. It really was just a question of how we’d arrive at our conclusion.
It was looking to be a cruise control type of game about halfway through the third but a combination of the Thunder falling asleep and the Wolves having some pretty good scorers in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, Minnesota had cut OKC lead to just two with a minute left in the third. But after a scramble following a missed Nick Collison jumper, Kevin Durant drilled a 3 and then canned another deep ball to end the period at the buzzer. Those two treys really broke the Wolves’ momentum and their backs.
The stellar Thunder second unit started the fourth on a 7-0 run, getting OKC’s lead back to double-digits and from there on out, it was just about finishing up. Nazr Mohammed was terrific to start the fourth, then the starters checked back in and put the game away. Nothing too stressful in the end.
It was a really balanced attack for OKC in this one with seven guys in double-figures with all scoring above 13. KD led the way with 23, Russ added 19, Mohammed 14, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and James Harden 13 and Serge Ibaka 12.
“That’s what we need to win,” Durant said after the game. “It’s not just two or three guys out there. Everybody came out and chipped in to help. It was a good game for us. Our energy was there from the beginning. It started to falter a little bit in the third quarter but we kept pushing and fighting. Our bench gave us a big lift and we were able to push on from there.”
Despite KD going just 7-18 from the floor, OKC was really efficient hitting 52.4 percent from the field. Nine missed free throws is sort of a bummer, but blame Perk for that who was 1-6 from the line.
Defensively there were certainly some lapses, especially late in the third quarter, but that whole thing was sort of a lull. It happens on nights like this where you go up and down emotionally. Like I said, the Wolves have enough offensive talent that you can’t entire relax and if you do, they’ll score in bunches. But taking care of business is the idea all along and that was the result. OKC’s magic number is now at two with a big game against Portland coming Sunday.
- Check this number: OKC had 16 steals tonight. 16! Five alone from Westbrook. Michael Beasley just couldn’t keep a handle tonight turning it over seven times. Westbrook was just everywhere. He had five steals but it was almost 15.
- KD was 3-6 in the first half, but struggled shooting the ball in the second going just 4-12 the last 24 minutes. Like I said though, his two 3s to end the third basically sealed this thing for OKC.
- What an outstanding game by Mohammed. In 19 minutes he had 14 points and seven rebounds and kind of dominated inside for stretches.
- Nice game from Perk too who had nine points in the first half to go with five rebounds for the game. He was great on the interior against Darko, plus he set five or six wonderful screens to free up Thunder shooters and slashers.
- Collison had quite the second quarter. He went 6-6 from the field for 12 points just in that period alone. He finished with 13 on 6-7 shooting. Between him and Perk, they went for 26 points on 12-13 from the field. In fact, the entire frontcourt scored 42 points. Not bad, bigs.
- I think the thing to say about Harden is that he’s just figured it out. He’s figured out how he can best get points while still staying within the flow of the game. It’s like he knows when it’s his time and what he needs to do. He was just 4-11 from the floor, but this is now 17 straight games in double-figures for him.
- Ibaka with another fine effort and a double-double — 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
- Speaking of blocks, Thabo finished with four. After a stuff of Nikola Pekovic, Thabo roared as Perk popped up off the bench yelling, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah Thabo!” You can really see how much Perk appreciates Thabo’s defense.
- The Thunder played Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in the arena before the game. Hip to the times, these Thunder are.
- Nate Robinson and KD’s pregame handshake was awesome. Some kind of thing where KD is stirring something in a bowl. My favorite part was watching Nate practice it about 30 seconds before KD came over to do it.
- Say what you want about Darko, but he’s a terrific passer. Truly gifted in that area.
- I really tried to look around tonight and man let me tell you, a Thunder game really is a family event. Kids in Durant jerseys everywhere. During timeouts, families all together screaming at Rumble, laughing, cheering. It’s basically exactly as the Thunder’s marketing group has dreamed it up. Want a great time out with the family? Go to a Thunder game! I bet when the front office types look around and see that, they pee a little.
- Harden really needs to worry more about finishing his jumper rather than trying to flail for a foul. He probably gets fouled a good amount on them, but let the ref call it rather than try and coax it out.
- Perk loves to run a fast break. And he loves to try and throw alley-oops to Serge Ibaka on them. So far this season, 0-2.
- Nazr Mohammed likes to slap people on the butt. In a three minute span he gave Lazar Hayward four and Darko three buttpats.
- I love when Westbrook gets a head of steam and changes directions like 40 times in two dribbles. You can see the look of pure terror and panic in his defender’s face. Luke Ridnour looked like someone pulled a gun on him as he backpeddled.
- Russ picked Beasley’s pocket clean but got whistled for it. He tucked the ball under his arm like a running back and walked straight at Jason Phillps yelling, “Come on man! You’ve got to be kidding me!” Westbrook started to pull that punk move of instead of handing Phillips the ball to set it on the ground next to him. Phillips glared and Russ thought better of it, picking it up and handing it to him. Why did I tell you this story? I have no idea.
- Remember all that team rebounding talk when OKC started Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, Westbrook averaged around five rebounds a game. Since the trade, Russ is averaging just 3.2 rebounds a game. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
- Anthony Randolph was hanging on the rim after a nice follow-up dunk above Perk so naturally Perk shoved him while he was still hanging there. Randolph wasn’t trying to do anything punkish, but just didn’t want to let go and land on Perk. But of course Perk took exception. Funny how you love these things when it’s your guy.
Next up: Portland at home Sunday.