Thunder Outlasts Minnesota For Back-To-Back Wins


Monday, December 26th 2011, 10:49 pm
By: News 9


Gerald Goodridge, News9.com

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- After opening the season in dominant fashion, the Oklahoma City Thunder had to hold off a late push from the Minnesota Timberwolves to come away with a 104-100 win to start the season 2-0 after just two days of play.

The game was nip-and-tuck in the early going, but the Thunder broke it open in the closing minutes of the second quarter.

Trailing 39-32 with six minutes left to play, the Thunder would close the half on a tear.

Oklahoma City scored 10 consecutive points, five from point guard Russell Westbrook, to take a 42-39 advantage. That would be the start of a 20-7 Thunder run to close the opening half to take a 52-46 advantage to the locker room at half.

Westbrook finished the opening 24 minutes with a game-high 17 points, including a six-of-11 performance from the floor, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists. James Harden provided a spark off of the bench with 14 points and five rebounds, with Kevin Durant chipping in 13 points in spite of hitting just five of his 11 shots from the floor.

In any other quarter, the Timberwolves' 26 third-quarter points would be enough to allow the deficit to close, but Durant outdid his entire first half in the third frame.

Durant hit seven of his eight attempts in the quarter, including six consecutive to close the third, scoring 16 in the quarter to give him a game-high 29 points. Oklahoma City went into the fourth quarter with a 78-72 lead, which would come in handy as Minnesota made a late-game push.

Minnesota opened the fourth quarter with a quick seven points to take a 79-78 lead less than two minutes into the quarter, setting up an exciting closing quarter.

Five minutes later trailing 93-92, J.J. Barea missed on a go-ahead three-pointer, but Kevin Love was open for a tip-in to take a 94-93 advantage with 4:46 left on the clock. On the next trip down the court, Durant converted on a pair of free throws to give the Thunder a one-point advantage.

Two minutes later, Minnesota rookie point guard Ricky Rubio drained a wide-open jumper from the top of the key to retake the lead with three minutes on the clock.

Westbrook tried for a go-ahead basket of his own on the Thunder's next possession, but turned the ball over on a charge. However, Rubio missed a dagger shot on Minnesota's next possession and Perkins found Westbrook on an outlet, who converted on a three-point play to give OKC a 98-96 lead with 2:25 left to play.

But the Timberwolves weren't going away, and forward Michael Beasley found an open lane to the basket on the next possession for a jam that tied the game 98-98 with two minutes to play.

Oklahoma City responded with four consecutive points, including a backdoor layup by Kendrick Perkins to take a 102-98 advantage with just 50 seconds left on the clock.

Derrick Williams hit on a layup on the Timberwolves' next trip down the court to close it to one possession, but Beasley couldn't hit on a jumper to tie the game with four seconds left in the game. Perkins came up with the rebound, was fouled and converted on both free throws to ice the game for Oklahoma City.

After the sluggish start, Durant finished with a game-high 33 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists in the win. Westbrook was hot from the floor, hitting 10 of his 21 attempts to finish with 28 points, six assists and six rebounds, while Harden scored 16 coming off of the bench.

The Thunder will get a relatively long break, taking two days off to travel to Memphis for a 7 p.m. matchup against the Grizzlies Wednesday.