Right out of the gates, it seemed like it was going to be one of those nights again, where the Wolves just get bull-rushed by a superior team into submission. But Darko and the Wolves fought back in the fourth and made things interesting, only to get buried by a Jeff Green three with less than a minute to go.
The Wolves were completely overpowered in the first half. The Thunder crowd welcomed Kevin Durant back to the starting lineup, after missing a few games with a sprained ankle, and he came through big with 15 points in the first half. The Wolves had no answer for his athleticism, but even more importantly, his offensive awareness. Countless times did Durant observe a sleeping defense on the Wolves part, more specifically that of Michael Beasley, and made us pay for it with an alley-oop. I’m pretty sure I counted up to 5 to 6 alley-oops in the first half alone, three of which Durant was on the receiving end.
But the real threat to the Wolves’ chances tonight was Jeff Green. Just last week, I was reading the highly respected Daily Thunder blog about how Green may have been on his way out of the starting lineup. Partly because of his lack of production and the development of the explosive Serge Ibaka, Green just seemed like the odd-man out of the exciting Thunder team. But tonight, he scored 24 points and showed his versatility by stretching his range beyond the three-point line. Green’s biggest contribution: a dagger of a three pointer with under a minute to go that gave the Thunder a four-point lead. Somehow, someway, an unfortunate bounce landed into a wide-open Green’s hands and he sunk it along with any chance the Wolves had at a comeback victory.
The Wolves missed having a big game out of Beasley, which we needed to counteract the scoring ability of Durant. He was slow out of the gates, failing to score a point until late in the second quarter. He eventually created some shots off the dribble, soaring into the paint, but it was clear he wasn’t the go-to guy tonight.
Instead, the go-to guy tonight was Darko Milicic. It’s remarkable to see his confidence and comfortability on the court rise through the roof, and it puts fans that disagreed with his signing this offseason at ease to see how well he’s playing — i.e. guys like me. Durant called Darko “one of the best centers in the league,” tonight. Not only is his production being noticed on a local level, but also the national spotlight is starting to observe to his exceptional play.
Here’s a few tidbits I wrote down from tonight’s game:
- Welcome back, Durant. Beasley turns over the ball in the first possession and Thunder take it the other way on a 3-1 break, capitalizing with a thunderous slam from Durant (Pun intended).
- The Thunder pushed the ball down the court really well all game long. And that’s not even their style of play. But when you have someone as fast as Westbrook and as athletic as Durant, it’s hard not to push the ball and create opportunities in the open court.
- Did anyone see that shot from Brewer towards the end of the 1st? Just threw it up at the whistle, watched it bounce atop the backboard 2 or 3 times and fall into the net. That is the epitome of Corey Brewer’s game.
- Nick Blackburn knows it best: the Thunder have such a wide, loyal fan base because they’re fun to watch and they play hard.
- Darko certainly looks more confident shooting, passing and basically every other aspect of the game. Coaches said they made adjustments to his base footing. All I care is that he’s starting to look like a legitimate center in this league.
- One of the most frustrating things to watch sitting on my plush couch is when the Thunder ran plays that you can actually see what’s coming; You know exactly what’s going to happen next at least one pass ahead of real time. But still the Wolves couldn’t stop it. A LOT of work still needs to be done on defense to get where we want to be.
- James Harden looks like Kimbo Slice
- There seems to be a common theme as of late that the Wolves play very well but just seem to catch their opponent on a good night for them as well. Part is our lapse in defense, but mostly we just seem to catch a team a bad night.
- Tolliver played great against Durantulla in the third quarter. Love that matchup a lot better than Beasley.
- Ridnour tries to play pick n roll game with Love with 4 mins left and a 1 pt lead with 8 seconds on the shot clock. Stupid.
Well, that’s all for tonight, folks. Be sure to check back in throughout the week as the Wolves take on the San Antonio Spurs at Target Center on Wednesday and you know I’ll be in attendance.