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Would you believe me if I told you that the Wolves have now taken three straight games from the Thunder at home? But neither of the others were as sweet as this one, even if it was against a handicapped Thunder team.
The Wolves took it to the Thunder tonight for three straight quarters — because that’s all they really needed. The fourth quarter was simply an open tryout for the bench warmers. It was the starters who really showed up to play for the Wolves tonight. They scored 34 points in the first quarter, 59 total at half and began the fourth — where not a single starter played a minute — with 88 points to their credit.
A team-oriented offensive onslaught saw contributions from all over. Kevin Love led all players with 24 and 12, giving him a second-straight double-double to start the season. Nikola Pekovic was the early locomotive and finished with 15 of his own. And Ricky Rubio — a new-and-improved version who actually looks for his own shot now — had 14 of his own along with 10 assists and five steals.
Unfortunately for Thunder fans, this one was never close at all. Like I mentioned, the Wolves started hot, scoring early and often, while the Thunder, led by lonely Kevin Durant, struggled to get good looks, especially from inside the paint. The Wolves dominated in that aspect, outscoring the Thunder 44-20, which was actually 44-10 at one point before the bench warmers came in during the fourth.
The Thunder really struggled tonight because of Russell Westbrook’s absence. Without him, this team is totally different. It’s like a facelift. Durant is a tremendous scorer but with highly-limited talent around him on offense, he’s forced to become the guy, which is always a tough position to be in. Looking up and down that lineup, I don’t see Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher or even Perry Jones III giving him much relief. Jeremy Lamb was good tonight but he still lacks the experience to step up and become Durant’s number two on offense. All in all, I’d be a tad worried with this current makeup in Oklahoma City. Durant’s shoulders are big but maybe not so much to rest a whole team on it until Westbrook returns.
Although I’m not calling him the actual MVP (who was Rubio, to be exact) Derrick Williams deserves some credit tonight. After a DNP-CD to start the season, the Caged Lion came out with fury. In that second grouping which typically features and dribble-happy JJ Barea and trigger-happy Alexey Shved, Williams sees himself as the grounding aspect that keeps that lineup moving forward. His offensive game has grown more and more diverse, proving he can score both inside and out as well as in-between. He only finished with 10 points but was awarded 27 minutes of game time, which is a great stat for him in and of itself. Now all he has to do is piece another game like this on the backend and widen that spotlight a bit, which should force Adelman’s hand to go to him more often.
By The Numbers:
Already mentioned above was the points in the paint. Just a ridiculous tally for the Wolves, and it’s a testament to their grit and determination under the hoop that leads to big buckets in the lane. But what also struck me was their outside shooting. Finished at 40-percent, they were at once around 50-percent when the starters dominated playing time. Three came from Love, two from Barea and even two from Mr. Rubio himself — a mighty fine sign that his confidence in that jumper is beginning to build. But with two of the bigger brutes in the NBA and some sharp shooters outside, this kind of inside-out attack will mean victory in a lot of games this season.
Who got next?:
Next up is at the New York Knicks on Sunday evening, 6:30 pm