Minnesota’s freezing cold temperatures couldn’t cool down the Thunder on Tuesday night as Oklahoma City (27-12) took down the Timberwolves 101-96 inside of the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Russell Westbrook was a facilitating machine throughout most of the night, and the young Timberwolves (12-27) weren’t able to compete with his overall playmaking ability. Westbrook finished with a near triple-double (22 pts, 11ast, 7 reb), but it was Kevin Durant who played the role of closer and finished with a team-high 30 points.
Oklahoma City did a tremendous job of setting the tone early on, and that was evident by the 15-to-2 lead they built up over the first four minutes in the game. That early Thunder lead was made possible by the total teamwork the “Boys in Blue” were displaying. Durant, Westbrook, Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka all had a hand in building that lead due to the fluidity of the offense and the discipline on defense.
“We started the first quarter very well and I think we defended very well,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.
Minnesota began to claw back in the second quarter while most of the starters rested, but Westbrook returned to action, and he along with big man Enes Kanter went to work. The duo were dominating the pick-and-roll offense, with Westbrook assisting on four quick Kanter baskets after being checked back in the game and the OKC lead blossomed as a result.
“I think Enes gave us a great boost in the first half especially the second quarter with his roles to the basket and finishes around the basket,” Donovan said.
Both teams struggled to get much going on offense in the third quarter, and the Thunder took a 14-point lead into the final frame. Despite the large deficit, the Timberwolves weren’t going to give up without a major fight.
The home-team was thriving in the fourth, and Andrew Wiggins was able to bring the Wolves within three points after flushing a dunk with 3:15 remaining, but Durant had a response with a nothing but net jumper on the next possession to make sure the Thunder lead didn’t get cut even more. In fact, Durant nailed his final four shots in the last three minutes, and all of those makes came at crucial moments when the Timberwolves had just cut into the lead on the other end of the floor.
“We had some plays we weren’t able to finish and made some plays that allowed them to hang around, and then obviously down the stretch Kevin made a lot of big plays and a lot of big shots,” Donovan said.
Durant scored the Thunder’s final 12 points despite struggling with his shot earlier in the game, and he showed everyone in the arena why he bolsters the “Kid Clutch” nickname.
“I made some shots, but I’ve got to get it going in the first three quarters. I can’t just come out and try to save the game and make shots in the fourth. I’ve got to get it going earlier,” Durant said. “I’ve got to make shots, man, that’s what it’s about.”
Along with Durant and Westbrook, Kanter also had a big game with 18 points and four rebounds. Steven Adams finished with eight points (all in first half) while Serge Ibaka scored eight points while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
Oklahoma City will be back in action on Wednesday night when they host the Mavericks at 7 p.m.