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The Thunder are just a bunch of bullies. Well, not really, other than maybe Kendrick Perkins, they’re just really good at flexing their muscles at the right time in front of the right crowd to take their moment and, ultimately, the win.
That’s exactly what happened last night. The Wolves were locked in what looked like a very promising game, and heading into the fourth quarter, the two teams were battling back and forth. The Wolves actually had a five-point lead by the start of the fourth, thanks in large part due to their extremely swift punch of 32 points out of the gates. But none of that mattered once the final 12 minutes started to tick.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks made a strategic move in that big comeback. Going with a smaller lineup that put Kevin Durant at the power forward slot (Note: this was all against the Wolves’ bench unit, led by none other than JJ Barea), the Thunder opened the game wide open with tremendous ball movement within their halfcourt offense and also burying three-pointers on nearly any break they had within the first five minutes. So even with that five-point cushion, the Thunder ended up sealing the game in their favor with about five minutes to play. The Wolves did get their starters back in but cold hands were already the issue, and that was that. Durant ended the game with a triple-double of 32 points, 10 rebs and 12 assists (a career-high) as well as the #1 Bully Award.
So that’s the narrative. Just one more stat to pile it on, the Wolves started the game shooting 60-percent from the field in the first quarter but ended with just 41.6-percent for the game, and went just 1-7 in three pointers in the fourth quarter. So any attempt at to answer the Thunders thundering (sorry) offense, was thwarted by everyone’s incompetence to hit an open shot.
The stats I want to go over. Nikola Pekovic has now pieced together three great games in a row. Last night, he set the pace with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He did seem to get lost in the middle quarters and scored two or three meaningless buckets in the last couple minutes of the game, but you have to be proud of his production, even against the tough son of a b*tch like Perkins. Second, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the new acquisition in the Derrick Williams trade, posted a minus-16 plus/minus last night. Now, everyone tells you not to read too much into game-to-game plus/minus stats (Or sometimes disregard it entirely) but it still has significance. As an all-around defensive stopper, your plus/minus should never be the highest on the team in an circumstance. Mbah a Moute will learn the system better as the season moves on but it’d be nice to see him step up a little more and just be an athlete.
So what’d we learn last night? Better teams beat lesser teams most of the time. Wolves are just going to have to bear down and keep their chin up high. After all, it’s on against the Spurs on Wednesday night. At least we’re at home!