Dec 20, 2012, 10:41 PM EST
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Thunder any favors on Thursday, and Oklahoma City may have known ahead of time that it was going to be in for a battle that was perhaps tougher than most expected, given the team’s record, along with that of a Timberwolves opponent that it was facing.
The Thunder came to Minnesota riding a 12-game winning streak, having won the night before in Atlanta before making the more than 1,100-mile journey to Minneapolis to play the very next night. It’s a strange enough back-to-back set, and the fact that the team decided to hold its scoring punch off the bench in Kevin Martin out with a bruised quad might have been a sign that the Thunder knew they were in for some trouble.
Whether it was an instinct the team had or not, the Timberwolves made sure to give the Thunder everything they had, and that was more than enough to snap OKC’s winning streak by a final of 99-93.
Minnesota came strong from the start, and led by as many as 14 points in the opening quarter, before finishing it leading by 12. Kevin Love made all four of his shots in the period, and had 11 points, four rebounds, and four assists in the game’s first 12 minutes.
Love finished with 28, 11, and seven, but he got plenty of help. Nikola Pekovic got loose inside for 24 points and 10 rebounds, as he was the consistent beneficiary of Minnesota’s ball movement and crisp passing time and time again.
The real hero for the Timberwolves, however, was J.J. Barea.
The small guard who is an uncontainable pest for his opponent when he has it going dominated the final period, and as the Thunder tried to close the gap and retake control of the game, he was simply unstoppable.
Barea had 14 fourth-quarter points, and scored 12 consecutive for his team during a crucial stretch that lasted close to five minutes. He was hitting from three-point distance and converting inside, and even drew a charge on Kevin Durant at one point which helped swing momentum in his team’s favor.
On the OKC side, Durant finished with 33 points on 21 shots, to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Russell Westbrook had a near triple-double line of 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but he also turned the ball over eight times, and with his 9-of-28 shooting gave those who wish he’d defer to Durant a bit more offensively another game’s worth of ammunition. And with Martin sidelined due to injury, there was no legitimate scoring threat available from anywhere else.
Ricky Rubio continues to work his way back from injury, and didn’t score in his 18 minutes off the bench, while dishing out three assists. It’s going to be a process for him, and this was a game where he had virtually zero impact while working his way back into shape.
The Thunder aren’t going to lose sleep over this performance, with the team sitting at 21-5 on the season and having lost for just the first time since November 23. The schedule had more to do with this one than anything else, but in Minnesota, the Timberwolves will be more than happy with the end result.
Dec 22, 2014, 6:59 PM EST
Love will be booed more vehemently on Tuesday than LeBron will on Thursday.
Dec 22, 2014, 6:17 PM EST
Well, it would be better than more Jar Jar Binks.
Nick Young’s plan to ease Kobe’s burden: Give Young the ball because he’s best three point shooter in league
Dec 22, 2014, 5:45 PM EST
Young does not lack for confidence.
Dec 22, 2014, 4:35 PM EST
The Rockets are the frontrunners to land him.
Dec 22, 2014, 3:51 PM EST
Trail Blazers move up to second.
Dec 22, 2014, 3:05 PM EST
Boston might try to re-trade point guard acquired in Rajon Rondo deal
K.J. McDaniels’ mom yells at his teammates for dunking rather than passing, shooting free throws too slowly
Dec 22, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Ms. McDaniels brings some fun to the 76ers-Magic game
Dec 22, 2014, 1:38 PM EST
Each reported suitor has an in with former Pistons forward
Dec 22, 2014, 1:01 PM EST
Maybe Dalembert wanted to get ejected so he didn’t have to watch any more of the Raptors easy win over the Knicks.
Dec 22, 2014, 12:21 PM EST
Pistons use stretch provision on forward owed more than $35 million
Dec 22, 2014, 11:55 AM EST
Will LeBron receive more cheers or boos?
Dec 22, 2014, 11:22 AM EST
In a Philadelphia win!
Dec 22, 2014, 10:29 AM EST
Magic guard avoiding sophomore slump of other top 2013-14 rookies
Dec 22, 2014, 9:39 AM EST
Philadelphia will waive Turiaf, who’s injured and out for season
Dec 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Byron Scott can tell Kobe to rest, but it will be Kobe’s decision. Kobe has the power in that relationship.
Dec 22, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Dec 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
No deal for Stephenson is happening anytime soon.
Dec 22, 2014, 1:43 AM EST
Quality win for LeBron James and the Cavaliers as well.
Dec 22, 2014, 12:39 AM EST
The seas part and Rudy Gay had a path to the rim.
Dec 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EST
The Cavs beat the Grizzlies in Cleveland.
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