Last night, for the first time this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 132-126 the final score.
The game against the Wolves showed both Oklahoma City’s faces. The first one is the high-intensity team, which is focused on defense and consequently generates great offense. The second one is the low-intensity team, which doesn’t care about defense and struggles to score. The Thunder started the game with a quick 22-8 run. The defense was solid, rotated perfectly, and prevent Minnesota to create easy shots. As mentioned before, this type of energy on the defensive end helps the offense. However, since that moment on (six-minute mark in the first quarter), the Wolves outscored OKC 23-16 to end the first twelve minutes. The central quarters were no different. The Timberwolves looked unstoppable on offense, while the Thunder tried their best (or worse) to stay in the game.
In the last quarter, Dennis Schröder took over. The backup point guard scored twelve consecutive points to increase OKC’s lead to ten points. That was the last push. From there on the Thunder controlled the game and pushed back every Minnesota’s come back attempt.
Russell Westbrook, Floor General
Another triple-double for Russell Westbrook, another win for the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is Westbrook’s 136th career triple-double, two more and he will catch Magic Johnson for 2nd most in the NBA. The former MVP finished the game with twenty-seven points (10-22 FG, 2-6 3PT, 5-7 FT), fifteen assists, ten rebounds, one steal, and four turnovers. Westbrook played a well-controlled game, attacked the rim, and create for his teammates. This is the type of Westbrook the Thunder will need starting this upcoming weekend, no matter the opponent.
Dennis & Markieff, Scoring Punch
When Schröder is able to hit his shots the Thunder are a force on offense, especially when one between Russell Westbrook and Paul George sits on the bench. Dennis helped the Thunder to create enough separation from the Wolves in the fourth quarter with twelve consecutive points. Oklahoma City had some more help from the bench yesterday: Markieff Morris. The power-forward contributed with fourteen points and six rebounds. His defense (especially on the rotations) is still below average, but if he can hit some shots on offense, the Thunder will be grateful indeed.
Steven Adams, Too Strong
Steven Adams played only twenty-seven minutes against the Timberwolves. The reason why? He is too strong. That’s basically the only reason. Yeah, sure, he committed six fouls, but the feeling is that most of the times he gets called for it because of is size/power. His sixth foul was a legal-not-moving screen, but because the defensive player crashed on him, the referee though Adams did something wrong. Well, he didn’t. Many times this year Adams was called for this type of fouls. Hopefully, when playoff time comes, the officials will let them play a bit harder. The Thunder really need Steven Adams.
Shooting Percentages, Improving.
Against Minnesota, the Thunder shot the ball well. Obviously, the Timberwolves aren’t a great defensive team, but with the recent OKC’s struggles, is good to see the team hit some shots, especially from the free-throw line. Oklahoma City shot 52.2% from the floor, 41.2% from behind the arc, and 84.6% from the free-throw line.
Playoff Picture, Win Out
After last night, the Thunder are now 6th in the Western Conference with two games left to play. To keep the 6th seed, and avoid a first-round matchup against the Warriors, Oklahoma City needs to win against the Rockets and Bucks. The Bucks, on the last game of regular season, might rest some of the main players. However, the Rockets are still battling for the second seed, so the game on Tuesday night is vital for Oklahoma City. They will need to bring their A-game if they want to compete against Houston.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play on Tuesday night, at home, against the Houston Rockets. Tip-off 8.30 P.M.
Photos by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder and Jordan Johnson | Getty Images