MINNEAPOLIS — The same old pint-sized pest plagued the Thunder once again.
J.J. Barea, a chronic thorn in the Thunder's collective side since the Western Conference Finals two years ago, virtually snapped Oklahoma City's 12-game winning streak by himself Thursday when he grew red hot in the final 10 minutes to lead Minnesota to a 99-93 win inside the Target Center.
Barea scored 14 of his 18 points off the bench in the fourth quarter, including 12 straight to shock the Thunder and sink OKC to 21-5.
“He always finds a way to hit tough ones,” said Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 33 points. “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.
“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.”
Barea, who is generously listed at 6-foot, provided perhaps his biggest play on the defensive end. Surprisingly, it came against the 6-foot-10 Durant.
With just less than 21/2 minutes remaining, and the Thunder trailing by nine and growing desperate, Durant barreled into Barea on a drive. A charging call was whistled on Durant, and the frustration that had been building the entire quarter boiled over. Durant slammed the ball to the court and bellowed a profanity expressing his disagreement with the call.
Barea missed the ensuing technical foul shot, but Love split a pair of free throws once the Wolves were awarded possession, bumping Minnesota's lead to 10 with 1:58 remaining. By that point, Durant was steaming, the Thunder was out of sync offensively and the inevitable end was near for OKC.
“This game is emotional,” Durant said. “It didn't go my way. It was a late part in the game, a key part in the game. I'm an emotional person. I really love this game so I don't regret it. I don't take it back. I wish I could have made a better move. I don't know how I could have avoided a charge there, but they called it a different way and I was upset. I got over it and kept playing.”
The Thunder's issues Thursday extended well beyond Barea. He just happened to be the man who made OKC taste losing for the first time since Nov. 23 at Boston.
Defensively, the Thunder, by all accounts, performed pitifully.
Love scored a team-high 28 points with 11 rebounds. Wolves center Nikola Pekovic added 24 points and 10 rebounds. And guard Alexey Shved scored 12 points with seven rebounds and 12 assists. Shved's passing set the tone and helped the Timberwolves shell out 27 assists, 20 in the first half.
“Everybody got into an offensive rhythm,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of the Timberwolves. “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.”
As a result, the Thunder never stood much of a chance. Oklahoma City never led, something that's never happened all season, and the streak seemed doomed from the start.
“We had a great streak, a great month going,” Brooks said. “But we lost to a very good team. We knew sooner or later they were going to get hot and they got hot tonight.”