Kevin Durant wasn't available. Minnesota stinks. Monday's game had the makings of a dud.
And for the most part, it was. But Oklahoma City's bench helped avoid disaster in a 92-84 Thunder win over the NBA's worst club.
Finding energy for a January game against a doormat proved to be as hard as one might expect. With Durant sidelined with a sprained big toe, Russell Westbrook took it upon himself to carry the offense. Only problem was, Westbrook was ice cold. Russ scored 18 points but shot just 7-of-22 from the floor and 0-of-3 from downtown.
Serge Ibaka played one of his best games of the season with 13 points and 19 rebounds, but no other Thunder starter reached double-figures scoring.
That's where the second unit stepped up.
Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow both scored 14 points and Dion Waiters added 10. Jackson shot an efficient 5-of-7 from the floor, hit his only 3-ball and hit all three free throws.
Nick Collison also contributed well on Monday. Collison scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and grabbed eight boards in just 17 minutes.
“We made it into a defensive game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “A bunch of guys chipped in. Reggie was good, Dion came in and gave us a good spark off the bench, Nick was obviously good and our bench was good tonight.”
The other big contributing factor to OKC's win is the fact that Minnesota just isn't any good. The Wolves (7-37) have lost 27 of their past 30 games and were once again without the services of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin. Rookie sensation Andrew Wiggins performed well with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting and journeyman Thaddeus Young added 22 and eight boards.
It wasn't pretty but the bottom line is that Oklahoma City took care of business in a must-win game. With the Pelicans' win, the Thunder (23-22) remains one game back of New Orleans and 2 ½ games behind Phoenix for the No. 8 spot.
“We're sluggish,” Brooks emphasized. “But we still fought and still competed.”
OKC is scheduled to play in New York City against the Knicks on Wednesday night, but because of the blizzard that is pounding the northeast, that game's status is up in the air.