OKC has now defeated them them straight three times this season after losing the initial matchup between the two teams back in November. The Thunder was virtually unstoppable as Kevin Durant and company smoothly operated on both ends of the floor. The Timberwolves’ 23 free throw attempts made the game appear to be more competitive than it actually played out to be.
Five Thunder players scored in double-figures, led by Durant’s 26 points. Reggie Jackson played one of his best games en route to dropping 20 points and a career-high nine assists. Serge Ibaka continued to flourish, adding 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Derek Fisher‘s improvement over the past month or so has been overshadowed by Durant’s dominance, by the 40 year-old veteran contributed 13 points off the bench tonight while most of Thunder’s second unit struggled to get things going. Fisher averaged 7.5 points per game in January, his best production in any month of the season this far.
With the win, the Thunder became the first team to reach 40 wins (40-11) in the NBA this season. They have won 12 of their last 13 games, all without the services of All-Star point-guard Russell Westbrook. With or without him, this team has what it takes to make a run deep into the playoffs. They have proven that they can win in a variety of ways, but they are most effective when everyone is doing their part and doing it well.
Winning is contagious, and it showed at home on Wednesday night. Even Kendrick Perkins, who finished with six points and 12 rebounds, has thrived during OKC’s hot streak. Teamwork is essential in their hunt for a NBA Championship. They have weapons do succeed, but consistency has been their Achilles’ heel in prior years.
Before Westbrook went down, I did not know if this team was ready to make a push for the championship. Now that key players’ roles have increased, getting them more ready for the big stage, I am sure that this team is capable of defeating anyone in a seven-game series and maybe even in dominant fashion.
They are still playing at a high level on the defensive end while finding ways to put the ball in the basket. They could always fall back on the heroics of Durant, but it is more important for them not to rely on a single player scoring 40 or more points to have a chance to win games.
This squad has leaped some huge hurdles thus far. The obstacles will continue to deter them from achieving their ultimate goal, but the Thunder is skilled enough as a team to work their way through or around anything and anyone in their way.