Thunder 111, Wolves 103
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s win at Minnesota.
- Are shot-blockers sort of like shooters? Can they get hot or find themselves in a zone when it comes to rejecting shots? That’s what it looked like as Serge Ibaka swatted six Wolves shots in the fourth period.
- Ibaka had a career-high eight blocks tonight and changed the game with his help defense. Seven of his blocks came in the second half.
- Consider this a good win for the Thunder. So what the Wolves own the third worst record in basketball. Minnesota raced to a 40-22 lead after one quarter and the Thunder couldn’t do anything right on either end. But in the final three quarters, OKC pulled it together and toughed it out through defense and hustle. The Thunder held the Wolves to 34.7 percent shooting in the final three quarters.
- On Twitter, I questioned the legitimacy of many of Kevin Love’s rebounds. I noticed two in the first quarter only to look at the stat monitor to read he had pulled down seven. That league-leading 15.3 -rebound rate is very iffy in my eyes after what I experienced tonight. But I don’t want to take anything away from Love. On one possession late in the game, he was the only guy in a white shirt battling for a board while surrounded by four blue jerseys. The guy is an animal.
- The Thunder’s ball movement was impressive tonight. OKC had 27 assists after getting just 13 against Chicago. Three players, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden, had at least six assists. Oddly enough, I thought the Thunder over-passed at times tonight.
- At one point, Michael Beasley had 20 points in 16 minutes. That guy can flat out score. He finished with 26 points on 27 shots, so I’d say the Thunder did a great job on him.
- If ever you get sick of hearing about how well the Thunder shoots free throws, pop in the tape of this one and watch how the Thunder won it at the line and the Wolves gave it away there. While Minnesota continued to come up with a split on trips to the stripe in the fourth quarter, OKC canned all nine of its foul shots in the final period. Minnesota went 6-for-13 from the line in the fourth.
- There was a lot of confusion tonight by Thunder players. I don’t know the extent of it, but it caused some real frustration during the game. Most of it looked to be over misunderstood assignments. Ibaka and Westbrook weren’t on the same page once, and Harden was royally ticked at something coming out of a timeout at one point. Another interesting exchange was between Harden and coach Scott Brooks. With the shot clock winding down in the second half, Harden was searching for something while Brooks was yelling at him from the sidelines to do something. Harden eventually found Ibaka for a mid-range jumper, forcing the Wolves to call timeout. And as Harden walked back to the bench, he gave Brooks a look like, ‘Calm down. I got this, Coach.’ Brooks playfully patted him on the rear as to sort of say good job.
- Going in, I thought the rebounding game would be the difference in this one. The Wolves led the league in rebounding, and the Thunder has been awful lately controlling opponents on the glass. But OKC out-rebounded Minny 42-40 (although the Wolves had a 15-3 advantage on the offensive end). It helped that Darko Milicic and Anthony Tolliver are both out with injuries. But give credit to the Thunder for finishing possessions with a rebound. Brooks made it a point to his players before the game to gang rebound. And five players finished with five rebounds or more tonight.
- Thabo Sefolosha again looked comfortable offensively. He made four of six shots and swished his only 3-point attempt. I’ll have more on Sefolosha’s increasingly productive offensive game in Friday’s paper.
- The Thunder is now 5-1 against Northwest Division opponents. OKC has played four more division games than Minnesota and Denver and two more division games than Utah. But it’s never too early to start monitoring that division record. These wins will add up later.
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