The word is out on how to defend the Thunder.
With guard Russell Westbrook out, defenses are again daring Oklahoma City's role players to beat them.
That's what's taken place in the Thunder's two losses entering Saturday's game at Minnesota, and it's exactly what Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has seen on film.
“Without Westbrook, the other guys have to step up,” Adelman said. “They've always had those two guys, and a couple of years ago three guys they could go to. So it's just a matter of teams are trying to make other people beat them. They have guys who have stepped up in the past, but the last two games, for whatever reason, it hasn't happened.”
Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are the three biggest remaining offensive weapons. But each one has had difficulty being a consistent threat without Westbrook.
Adelman thinks they'll figure it out.
“They've had experience from in the playoffs when (Westbrook) went down and then this year in the preseason. But then he came back again,” Adelman said. “But I think these guys, they're used to it. They won their first couple and they lost these last two. And they lost going into the fourth quarter with a nice lead. So I think they'll figure it out. They're a quality team and they'll figure it out.”
The Thunder, though, could be reaching a point where Westbrook's injury is starting to take its toll. Unlike most teams, OKC has Kevin Durant to fall back on. But multiple or prolonged injuries, Adelman said, are tough for any team to overcome.
“It depends on the team, and you can get by for a while,” Adelman said. “But over the course of a season it's going to start wearing on you and you start getting two and three (injuries) and it starts getting really difficult for your depth.”
Durant and Timberwolves star Kevin Love have bonded over the past few summers as teammates on Team USA and workout partners. Before facing each other for the third time this season, both spoke about the impact their relationship has had on the them.
“We've learned a lot from each other as far as work ethic and how we approach the game,” Love told reporters Saturday. “Obviously, he's a far different player than I am, but as far as how we show up to the game every day, get exercise, work exceptionally hard, I think in a lot of ways we see eye-to-eye.”
Said Durant: “Just being around him this summer, he taught me a lot about myself. He's just a pro's pro, a guy that comes to work every single day. Doesn't say anything, just goes out there and plays. He's a fierce competitor, but he doesn't talk about it. He's not one of those rah-rah guys that lets you know. He's just going to do out there and produce.”
Luc Mbah a Moute (groin) did not play Saturday. He would have been relied on as a primary defender against Durant. … Ibaka continued his streak of games with at least one block. His NBA-best streak now stands at 26 games. … Durant scored a season-low 13 points in the Thunder's first game at Minnesota this season. It was his fewest points since scoring 12 against Phoenix on Dec. 31, 2011. … Durant picked up a technical foul in the second quarter.
The Thunder returns home for the second night of a back-to-back Sunday against Boston. It's the first meeting between the teams. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.