Wolves 99, Thunder 93
Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday's loss at Minnesota.
- J.J. Barea is one pesky little dude. At least to the Thunder he is. Once again Barea toyed with the Thunder, doing whatever he wanted to do and all that he needed to do to lift his Wolves to a win. He scored 14 of his 18 points off the bench in the fourth quarter. He added four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 23 minutes. During tonight's most pivotal stretch, Barea buried 12 straight points and almost single-handedly snapped the Thunder's 12-game winning streak.
- "He always finds a way to hit tough ones," said Kevin Durant of Barea. "He had a triple-double against us last year. In the Western Conference Finals he kicked our (expletive) on pick-and-rolls and hitting 3s and stuff we didn’t think he could do." Durant continued. "It seems like him and Kevin Love don't miss against us. I think every team has that guy. And I think those two guys are that against us. Next time we play them we just got to do a better job."
- Reggie Jackson took the blame for allowing Barea to get hot. "I let J.J. Barea get going, so I think I failed definitely on the defensive end," Jackson said. "I tried to impact the ball the best I could but he got hot. He's a good player and I think they were just making some shots tonight."
- Asked specifically whether Barea's blistering fourth was his solely his fault or more of a team-wide defensive failure, Jackson again accepted responsibility. "We missed some team assignments, but I definitely take it personal with whoever I'm checking so I definitely take the blame for letting him get hot like that."
- According to my Twitter timeline, tons of Thunder heads already are skewering Jackson. Russell Westbrook, however, came to his backup's defense. "It's not his fault," Westbrook said. "It's not his fault at all. It's the team's fault. As a team, we've got to be able to take ownership of that."
- Again, judging by my Twitter timeline plenty of people want to throw Brooks under the bus as well. Apparently, many feel Brooks should have played Jeremy Lamb over Jackson. (Exhales). I'll make this one brief. Did you really want Jeremy Lamb out there guarding tiny little J.J. Barea? Think about that. And just because Lamb played last night at Atlanta and played well in five minutes doesn't mean he earned the right to play tonight. Brooks did what so many seemingly have been begging him to do, play his young guys. Last night it was Lamb's turn. Tonight, with a matchup more conducive to trotting out a point guard, it was Jackson who got the nod. Not sure what the big deal is there.
- Jackson tied his career high in minutes tonight with 25. As a result, Eric Maynor played just four. Again, Brooks played to his strengths by putting the more athletic Jackson on Barea rather than Maynor. And, again, isn't Jackson playing over Maynor something more and more people have been craving?
- With all that being said, it's ironic that the only two Thunder players on the high side of the plus-minus tonight were none other than Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor.
- Reggie Jackson didn't lose the game just like J.J. Barea didn't win the game. This game was as good as gone in the opening quarter. The Thunder came out and played defense like dog poo and let Minnesota do whatever it wanted offensively. The Wolves led by as many as 14 in the opening period, scored 30 in the frame and got open shot after open shot after open shot.
- "We didn't guard them well enough early," said Nick Collison. "Our defense wasn't as good as it needed to be to win tonight. They outplayed us."
- Minnesota had 20 assists in the first half! A staggering 15 of the Wolves' first 16 made field goals were assisted. Some guy named Alexey Shved looked like John Stockton, and he made Nikola Pekovic, who looks more like a professional wrestler, look like Karl Malone.
- Collison: "They've got goo passers, and we were getting drug out on pick-and-rolls...We just were a step behind most of the first half and having to help. And they're good passers. They were finding (Pekovic). He's a really good player. He's one of the best rollers in the league. So they made us pay."
- Brooks on the Wolves' ball movement: "Everybody got into an offensive rhythm. They had 20 assists in the first half, which is way too many. That ball was moving wherever it wanted to. We weren't stopping it from going where they wanted it to go."
- Color me surprised Thabo Sefolosha struggled so much to stay in front of Shved. I don't know if it is Thabo's first time playing against him or what. But that was a big-time shock.
- Beyond the Thunder's wretched defense, the offense was out of tune for much of the game. Especially early. The Thunder was throwing it all over the court, being extremely sloppy with passes. OKC had five first-quarter turnovers and it easily could have been 10. Couple that with how the shots refused to fall and it's amazing the Thunder stayed as close as it did.
- Andrei Kirilenko on snapping the Thunder's streak: "13 is a bad number, see."
- Collison on the streak ending: "We're not concerned with the streak. It's a function of us playing good basketball over a long stretch. We would have liked to have played better tonight. We're disappointed in how we played. But other than that it's over. We just got to move on and try to win the next one. That's the way we've been all year, though. I think that's a mind-set that works for us."
- Question: if a loss was inevitable in one of the final two games of this road trip, would you have rather seen the streak end tonight or Tuesday against the Heat?
- Durant on the end of the streak: "We had a nice winning streak going. I think we did a great job of just staying down, never getting too high about it. So with a loss we just got to be the same way and keep improving."
- Perhaps some much-needed perspective from KD: "It's not the end of the world, man. It's not. A lot of people said the world was going to end tomorrow (laughs), but it's not the end of the world. We lost to a good team tonight. They came out and played extremely hard. They beat us. We're 21-5. We just got to move forward. We're not going to go on the plane or have a team meeting and argue with each other because we loss. We just got to learn from it and move on."
- It is sort of weird writing about a loss for the first time since Nov. 23. In fact, I didn't even write about that defeat in Boston. The last one I covered was Nov. 14. That's more than a month of watching winning.
- No Kevin Martin in this one because of a right quad contusion, an injury he sustained late in Wednesday's win at Atlanta. Martin told me he's never had a quad contusion but the injury isn't believed to be severe. He expects to rest and rehab it over the next few days and be ready for Tuesday's showdown at Miami.
- Without its sixth man the Thunder's bench was awful. OKC was outscored 22-7 in bench points.
- I generally don't believe in "schedule losses." But if I did firmly believe in that sort of thing I would probably say this is one of them.
- The Thunder never led in this game. That something that hasn't happened all season.
- Russell Westbrook: 30 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, eight turnovers, three steals, 9-for-28 shooting. That's quite a stat line.
- Westbrook offered some pretty good insight after this one. "Just a slow start," he said. "Sometimes you have nights like that. We had a few, I think, during this streak but we were able to get over the hump. But tonight was one of those nights were they always got the extra rebound or made the extra shot. It caught up with us tonight. But it's one game. We're still in a good position. I think as a team we're still playing good basketball. Sometimes you have nights like this. You got to find a way to fight through them."
- Some are curious about the Thunder's travel schedule, perhaps worried that the team will be in Miami from early Friday morning until Tuesday. But the team is flew home after this game and will take Friday off before practicing Saturday and Sunday. The team will leave for Miami on Monday afternoon. So fret not, fretters.
- Up next. At Miami on Tuesday.
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