The Oklahoma City Thunder lost another tight one in the last moments, 119-116, to the Minnesota Timberwolves dropping to 0-2 to the Wolves on the season. It was another high-scoring affair against this physical Minnesota team. The Thunder are now 2-3 on the season.
The Thunder have been very good defensively up until tonight, only giving up about 96 points per game. That was not the case tonight, as the Timberwolves lived off of second chance points and points in the paint, all the while putting up a whopping 119 points.
The whole story of the game was Minnesota wanting it more, especially late in the game. They seemed to get every loose ball, and killed Oklahoma City on the offensive glass. Too many times tonight the Thunder were giving up second chance points and were just plainly out hustled by the Wolves.
“I thought we played really really well in the first 18 minutes,” Billy Donovan said about the second half play by the Thunder, “I thought the last six minutes of the fourth quarter we really struggled on both ends of the floor.”
When asked about what the difference was, Donovan mentioned the rebounding. “That was really the difference in the game,” Donovan said. Oklahoma City was out-rebounded by nine boards tonight. They also gave up 17 offensive rebounds.
Oklahoma City also put the Timberwolves on the charity stripe a lot tonight, 35 times to be exact. Minnesota shot 10 more free throws than the Thunder did. There might’ve been some questionable officiating, but the Thunder were also not defending without fouling tonight.
With all that said, Oklahoma City still had a chance to tie this game and send it into overtime. After a Jeff Teague missed free throw, Carmelo Anthony had a decent look at a potential game tying three-pointer but missed it.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Thunder looked overall as a unit, as good as they looked all season despite the tough loss. Four different Thunder players scored more than 20 points and as a team they shot 50 percent from the floor.
Both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George found their groove early on, both finishing with 23 points each. They finished both shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.
Adams also had a monster game, much like he did the last time these two teams met. Adams finished the night with 20 points and eight rebounds. He also shot an excellent 80 percent from the floor.
Westbrook was very methodical on offense, picking his spots when to attack and when to find the open man. He had another all-around night finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.
Though with all the positives offensively, the Thunder just could not get the job done defensively. Karl Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler led the way for Minnesota.
Towns had a huge night, on both ends, putting up 33 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. He struggled defensively last time the Wolves played the Thunder but he was a monster tonight.
Butler finished his night with 25 points and closed the game very well to seal the win for the Timberwolves.
Billy Donovan also loved what he saw with the bigger lineups for the Thunder tonight. Often he went with Jerami Grant and Josh Huestis over Andre Roberson in the lineups. These taller lineups were successful but obviously struggled to get stops defensively. With the emergence of Huestis, these type of lineups could be seen a lot more down the road.
Roberson only played nine minutes tonight. That could be because of the bigger lineups ran by Donovan and also him being too much of a liability on the offensive end, though his defending was definitely missed.
Both games versus the Timberwolves have been very close, but still losses for Oklahoma City. It is still early, but these two losses to a divisional rival could have big implications when it comes to playoff-seeding time in April.
The Thunder will have to shake this loss off quickly though, since they travel to Chicago to face the Bulls tomorrow night. Chicago being just 1-3 on the season, it is a good chance for Oklahoma City to bounce back before facing off against a very good Milwaukee team. Thunder tip is set for 7 p.m. CST on Saturday night.
Keys to the game
Win the rebounding battle: F
This was obviously the biggest problem Oklahoma City struggled all game with. Towns and company dominated the glass and kept possessions alive all game long. If the Thunder could’ve just secured a couple more rebounds, we might be talking about a different outcome.
Limit the turnovers: C
Oklahoma City has been a turnover machine early in this season, and they could not afford to do that against a Minnesota team that is good in transition. The Thunder only turned it over 14 times, which isn’t too bad all things considered, but they still took the loss so they only get an average grade here.
Big night for big three: A
Even though with the loss, there is a slight moral victory here. Oklahoma City’s big three continue to improve their chemistry and they all three looked comfortable offensively tonight. They combined for 73 points on better than 50 percent shooting from the floor. Hopefully they can build on this Saturday night versus Chicago.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!