Thunder Do Just Enough to Beat T-Wolves

It was not one of the Thunder's best efforts, in fact OKC head coach Scott Brooks wasn't happy at all with the defense his team played for most of last night's game with Minnesota.

But even without their best effort the Thunder still managed to do enough to beat the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves 106-97 last night at The Peake.

As usual Kevin Durant led the way with 26 points and he came close to another triple-double by adding nine rebounds and seven assists. Reggie Jackson had one of his better games with 20 points, nine assists and only one turnover.

The T-Wolves had to play without their leading scorer, Kevin Love, their third leading scorer, Nikola Pekovic and without their best perimeter defender, Corey Brewer.

Everyone knew Pekovic and Brewer would be out. Pekovic has a bum ankle and Brewer stayed home for the birth of his son.

Love's absence took many by surprise. He'd taken a hard fall in Minnesota the night before against the Lakers but head coach Rick Adelman seemed to think he'd give it a go before the game and Love was listed on the original starting lineup. He ended up being a late scratch with a stiff neck and maybe that took some of the Thunder's edge.

Whatever it was, the Thunder didn't begin the game very well, their shots were falling despite some sloppiness on offense which led to 11 first half turnovers. But it was the lack of hustle on defense that most concerned Brooks.

"I thought we played good defense for about four minutes in the first quarter and then again in the fourth quarter," Brooks told reporters after the game. "other than that we didn't play the kind of defense we usually do."

The Thunder seemed to snap out of their funk for about a four minute stretch to begin the fourth quarter. Derek Fisher got an assist on a buzzer-beating 3-ball at the end of the third quarter when T-Wolves rookie Gorgui Dieng was called for goal tending.

That sparked the Thunder to a 16-4 run that gave them their first bit of breathing room all night and that 12 point lead kept the Wolves at bay the rest of the game.

"We knew they were going to play hard," Brooks said, "When you have a wounded team that gives guys who haven't had a lot of opportunities to play big minutes."

No one knows that better than Minnesota forward Dante Cunningham who filled in for Love. Cunningham played almost 43 minutes and scored 18 points on 9-for-13 shooting.

"Everybody in this league is good, there are no bad players," Brooks reminded those of us listening in the post game interview room and wondering why the Thunder seemed to struggle against a short-handed team.

Al Davis, the former owner of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, probably said it best when referring to these types of situations, "just win baby."

And that's exactly what the Thunder managed to do last night.

Randy RennerComment