Well, it was probably a little more challenging than it should have been, but the Thunder are leaving Minnesota with a win. It would be easy to nitpick this one for issues exposed or blah blah blah, but really, on the road this late in the season, it’s just about winning and moving on.
Yeah, the Wolves shot 50 percent from the field. They scored 110 points on Oklahoma City without Kevin Love. The Thunder missed a number of opportunities to put the Wolves away in the second half, but never could completely finish them off. I think that’s more of a credit to them than it was an indictment on the way OKC played in this game. That’s a sweep of the Wolves and the Thunder’s 12th straight over Minnesota. It’s not easy to beat anyone that much.
To be quite honest, I didn’t get much out of this game other than the fact the Thunder won it, and that it served as a friendly reminder that Kevin Durant is absurdly good at this whole basketball thing. His fourth quarter was stupid. He scored 20 of his 43 (that came on just 23 shots) in the last 12 minutes, with foul trouble benching him for the last eight minutes of the third. He was clearly itching to get back on the floor and do what he was put on Earth to do — score.
That fourth quarter really could be a mixtape for Durant all on its own. He showcased how insanely full his offensive arsenal is. He scored off screens. He scored off the dribble. In the post. In the paint, from 3, got to the line. Fadeaways, runners, baby hooks. You name it and Durant did it. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for a defender caught in an iso situation with him. I’m surprised more guys don’t pee down their leg and ask to leave the floor when that happens. Because most times, you’re not really going to stop Durant. As Rick Carlisle said earlier in the year, really the best defense for KD is to just hope he misses.
The rest of the heavy lifting was done by Westbrook who carried the load in the third while Durant sat with foul trouble. Russ finished with 35 and eight assists, 14 of those points coming in a late third quarter flurry. Really, it was a fine example of how you can cut one head of the monster, but unless you get both, you’re still screwed. Durant sat, so Westbrook stepped up and carried the scoring burden. Until of course KD returned to the floor and finished things off. Kind of a beautiful thing, actually. And a nice demonstration of how very well Westbrook and Durant are working in concert this season, scoring off each other without any stressful, tense offensive possessions of trying to figure out who is supposed to shoot.
James Harden was off (just 1-of-11 for six points) after returning from a sore knee, so it really was the Thunder’s outstanding two-headed attack that did the work tonight. The Wolves tried to use a similar approach, only their two heads were Michael Beasley and J.J. Barea. Not quite the same punch in that one.
That’s four wins in five tries for OKC, with the one loss being the game given away to the Clippers. I don’t know if the Thunder are necessarily playing their best basketball by any means, but that’s another hole punched for OKC and it’s on to the next one.
- To single out one of KD’s moves, his iso jab step has become one of his very best. He loves to use it when he’s on the left wing. He hard jabs once like he’s going to drive to the paint and then goes baseline. He does it super quick before there can be any rotation or help on it, which is what makes it so difficult to combat.
- KD high-fived a little kid wearing a Thunder jersey after an and-1 dunk. Super cool.
- 4:04 left in the second quarter, Thabo kicked out to a wide open Westbrook at the 3-point line. Again, wide open. However, one more pass and Harden is equally open on the 3-point line. That’s a place that Russ needs to recognize and swing it one extra time to the better shooter. Not because he should be point guarding and all that stuff, but because that’s the smart play.
- Nikola Pekovic looks like such a Nikola Pekovic.
- Monster rebounding edge for a second straight night for OKC, 53-39.
- Serge Ibaka with another quality performance — eight points, 12 boards and five blocks. It’s almost becoming standard for him.
- KD has had the most 40-point games against the Wolves in NBA history. Kind of neat.
- A lot of people asked, but KD needed 70 points tonight to take over the scoring lead from Kobe. He’s now averaging 27.8 to Kobe’s 28.1.
- In the fourth quarter, there was a jump ball between Derek Fisher and J.J. Barea. Go ahead and make sure to keep that ball to send to Springfield. (If you’re wondering, Barea won. Surprised?)
- It was really subtle, but after KD scored on a shot where he lost the ball and it came back to him, he let out an awesome little smirk like, “I don’t know what the crap that was, but it worked.”
- Anthony Randolph just looks sad all the time. He did score 22 points though.
- It’s kind of incredible how often Fisher shoots a 3 with his toe on the line.
- Nick Collison had 10 points and eight rebounds, but was somehow a -8. It was a very Nick Collison game, without being a very Nick Collison game, if that makes sense.
- Durant and Westbrook had 78 points and the other three Thunder starters had 19.
- What was up with the weird drumming during the game? It sounded like the saddest Brazilian soccer match ever.
- I think Ibaka is better at throwing at outlet pass with a block than with an actual pass.
- Attention Martell Webster: A headband did not make your hair look any better.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “To the 10, to the five, touchdown Michael Beasley.”
Next up: At the Clippers Monday.