For the Minnesota Timberwolves, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City would have been a difficult enough task even if they had a full roster. But with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic out, the task was much greater.
Coach Rick Adelman‘s Timberwolves fought valiantly as they tried to upset the Thunder with a depleted roster. This game could actually be seen as a positive if the Timberwolves’ role players gained confidence from their performance. The Timberwolves could also use this game as an example of the energy and effort that they should be playing with every night no matter who is in their lineup.
Minnesota was led by Ricky Rubio and Dante Cunningham. Rubio had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Cunningham filled up with stat sheet with a line of 18 points on 9-13 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks.
The biggest problem for Minnesota was that Oklahoma City had Kevin Durant. The potential MVP was his usual spectacular self, scoring at a high level, getting after it on the boards and finding teammates for open shots and easy baskets with his unselfishness. He finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
The star forward also received plenty of help from his teammates on Wednesday night. Reggie Jackson had another terrific game, as he was able to score and find open teammates. The much improved guard finished with 20 points on 9-14 shooting and nine assists as he continues to do an outstanding job in place of Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka was a force on the defensive with three blocks. Kendrick Perkins had one of his best games of the season with 12 rebounds in just 21 minutes. Long-time veteran point guard Derek Fisher had 13 points off the bench including three three-pointers.
It wasn’t all pretty for the Thunder, as they allowed an undermanned Timberwolves team to stay close throughout. In the end, Oklahoma City was just too much. While Durant had the best game out of anyone on the court on Wednesday, it simply was not just him that got the Thunder the win.
While the Thunder should probably have blown out the Timberwolves without Love and Pekovic, it can be a difficult task at times when a team is preparing to see the opponent’s best players and instead gets a completely different looking opponent. Regardless, the most important thing for the Thunder is that they found a way to win.
When you have Durant on your side, that will happen more times than not.