Final score: Thunder 111, Timberwolves 103
Points: Durant with 30, Beasley with 26
Rebounds: Kevin Love with 21, Durant with 11
Assists: Luke Ridnour with 9, Westbrook with 8, Durant with 6
Wow, I think I’m going to need some antacid medicine after that one.
For the first time this year (I think) I was actively getting angry at this team that I am devoting myself to. It was a strange feeling, because I have not felt an emotional connection to an NBA team for a long time (with the exception of the Lakers; still hate them through and through). Through two and a half quarters, I felt like I was subtly but openly despising what I was watching. One of these teams has a record of 5-16? You’d be forgiven if you guessed it was the team in blue.
How did I get there?
Here are a few things that I noted to myself in the first half:
- They gave up 40 points to the Wolves in the 1st. The Thunder’s defense was so bad that I couldn’t even come up with a joke to bring some levity.
- With 1:30 to go in the 1st, this sequence encapsulated things perfectly:
- Wayne Ellington hits an open 3-pointer. Wayne Ellington? Sounds like he should be playing second trumpet in the Wynton Marsalis Band.
- Westbrook takes the inbound pass and flies down the floor. He takes a quick shot with 18 seconds left on the play clock, missing badly. With nobody there to rebound, it is an easy board for Love. Westbrook then promptly fouls Love, picking up his 2nd personal foul.
- Eric Maynor immediately comes in for Westbrook. On a 2-on-1 break, instead of taking the layup he gets cute and tries an alley-oop. It fails badly.
- Nick Collison fouls Love with 2.5 seconds left while Love is in the act of shooting a 3-pointer.
- I throw my laptop across the room (figuratively).
- I’m completely frustrated with what I’m seeing. But then, just like that, the Thunder run off on a 22-5 run in the 2nd quarter to get to within two. Feel the surge!
- Aaaaand…it’s over. Westbrook picks up his 3rd foul of the game with just under four minutes to go, and his retreat to the bench begins to undo the comeback.
- Kevin Durant gets his pocket picked by Corey Brewer on three consecutive possessions. Durant looked like a green rookie at this point – completely overwhelmed and rushing bad shots. He finished the half with a +/- of -10 with four turnovers.
- By halftime, the Thunder were only down 11, having won the 2nd quarter by seven. Objectively, they looked like they were on the right track. And yet, they looked completely lost. I didn’t have much hope.
During halftime, I wondered if I’d spend the next hour half-watching the second half while I did other things. If the Thunder didn’t care, why should I?
We found out that the Thunder DO care. And their leaders, Durant and Westbrook, decided to lead.
For what I believe is the first time this season, Durant looked pissed. Not mad, or frustrated, or moping. He looked pissed off that he was playing poorly, that Corey Brewer was embarrassing him, and that they were getting rolled by a talented but inept 5-16 squad. And then he and Westbrook began to become the players they were born to be.
(Overdramatic? Hyperbolic? Of course! But what is the fun of sport if not for hyperbolic overdrama 😉
Westbrook took control, visually stating, “I got this.” He got to his spots on the court, hitting jumper after jumper. Durant then said, “My turn.” The two combined for 23 of the team’s 31 points in the 3rd, punctuated by Durant’s deep 3-pointer with 26 seconds to go, briefly pulling the team even with the Wolves, who once led by 19.
The 4th quarter was uneven, but merely a formality. If you were watching, you knew that the Thunder had taken what the Wolves once possessed. It remained close until the end, but Westbrook remained in control and Durant defiantly continued to knock down a series of “I’m better than you” shots. (those shots are the best)
The Wolves tried to hang with them, but eventually wilted under the intensity which Durant and Westbrook had brought. Minnesota was held to a mere 17 points in the 4th, less than half of their 1st quarter outburst.
A special final note to two guys who won’t get a ton of press today:
- James Harden was instrumental in the 2nd half. He is still struggling mightily finishing around the rim, but one thing he isn’t struggling with is beating his man off the dribble. Late in the game he repeatedly broke down his defender in order to set up Durant and in the end tallied six assists to his personal box score.
- Serge Ibaka was instrumental in cutting down the Minnesota post game. In logging 33 minutes of play, Ibaka blocked eight shots to go along with 10 points and five rebounds (the team finished with 12 blocks overall). Kevin Love finished with 22 points, but 18 of those came in the first half.
Did I say I hated this game? I forget…
Next game: Friday night at New Orleans at 8:00PM EST