By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Russell Westbrook had his typical huge game, 31 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds but the Thunder bench came through with 50 points to help secure a 112-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
All of a sudden the Thunder have won three straight and four of their last five games.
OKC’s bench was a major liability earlier in the season but now those issues seem to be in the rear view mirror, at least for now.
“They’ve done a really, really good job of coming together,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s been great seeing that.”
Enes Kanter led the bench with 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting and Alex Abrines hit three 3s and a free throw for 10 points. Jerami Grant added nine and Joffrey Lauvergne dropped in in eight.
Kanter has continued to cause certain teams fits with matchup problems offensively and he’s not nearly the defensive liability he had been.
“Enes has improved defensively and that’s where his focus needs to be,” said Donovan. “But he’s also gotten really good at reading defenses and seeing where he needs to go.”
Steven Adams also had a big night with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting and six rebounds. The nine made baskets ties his career-high and he came up just a bucket short of tying his career-high in points. Adams bounced back from a tough first half trying to deal with Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and was much better later in the game.
Towns had 16 points in the first half but just 10 on 4-for-10 shooting in the second half.
“Steven did a really good job of jab stepping on Towns and forcing him to shoot the shots we wanted him to take. It’s really tough because if you get too close to (Towns) he’s going to blow right by and if you stay too far back then he can go out and hit the three.”
Oklahoma City led by as many as 20 and never trailed in the second half while shooting 52.6 percent overall and holding Minnesota to just 41.9 percent over the last 24 minutes.
It’s still not known how soon Victor Oladipo or Cameron Payne will be back. Both continue to improve and have been doing more and more in warmups.
“Victor is improving but he’s still limited in what he can do,” Donovan said before the game when asked about Oladipo. “It’s no surprise to us that it’s been this long. We’re thankful no surgery is needed but it’s (the right wrist) just gotta heal.”
Payne has missed the entire season so far with a foot fracture suffered in the Blue-White Scrimmage the first week of training camp and Oladipo has missed seven full games and three quarters of another.
The Thunder are expected to practice Monday before flying to Maimi for a game with the Heat on Tuesday night and then on to Memphis to play the Grizzlies on Thursday.
OKC’s next home game will be the annual New Year’s Eve game, this time the LA Clippers will be in town.