Balanced Timberwolves attack down on the Thunder
We were afforded a glimpse of how good the Timberwolves could be when they have most of their personnel at their disposal. Nikola Pekovic lead a Kevin Love-less Minnesota to a 101-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The win means that coach Rick Adelman now has 997 wins under his belt. This also means that the Timberwolves sweeped the Thunder on their home court, having beaten them earlier in December.
Kevin Durant did his best to drag his side throughout the contest as he scored 36 on 13-19 shooting but with little help from the Thunder bench wasn’t able to bring down the deficit.
Montenegrin centre Pekovic lead the line for the Wolves recording his 10th 20-10 game of the season with a 22 points,15 rebounds effort. Rikcy Rubio had another impressive game with 17 points, 7 assists and 4 steals as 5 players from the home team were in double figures.
The teams went into the second quarter tied at 23 a piece, after which the home team showed their recently found offensive prowess, scoring 84 in the last three quarters over the miserly Thunder who pride on their defense. While Rubio excelled in controlling the tempo, Russell Westbrook failed to have much impact in the game as the North-West division leaders looked to Durant to facilitate the offence and create mis-matches on the switch.
While Durant was creating havoc, the Thunder struggled to take care of the ball throughout the game, which was uncharacteristic of them resulting in 16 turnovers. On the other hand, they could only force 10 turnovers from the Wolves. Much lesser than their usual average of 15.
Durant started the night in hot shooting form, hitting 9 of his first 10 shots. But, as the game wore on the defensive switches and plays made by the gritty Dante Cunningham and the veteran Andrei Kirilenko made sure that Durant could make only 4 of his last 9 shots.
With the subdued Westbrook unable to create any offence on his own and Kevin Martin firing blanks, it became too big a task for the scoring leader to do it all on his own.
While Durant was not getting much help from either the bench or the bigs, the Timberwolves flourished as Cunningham’s hustle play disrupted the Thunder plans on both ends of the floor. Chase Budinger came off the bench to score 13 and make Timberwolves a threat from distance, drilling 2 of his 4 attempts from beyond the arc.
Timberwolves went into the half only 5 points ahead but really pulled away in the 4th quarter as they didn’t allowed the Thunder to score a field goal in the first five minutes and limited them to only 16 points that quarter.
The victory was a sweet redemption for the Timberwolves who lost in controversial circumstances only two nights back to the Lakers. For the Thunder, the loss could be vital in their chase to be the top seeds and hence maintain home-court advantage going into the play-offs for Western Conference bracket. The loss now puts them 2.5 games behind the Spurs and nine games to turn it around.