You never know what you might see whenever the Thunder takes on Minnesota.
Pretty much all that's promised — one way or another — is an entertaining affair.
“It seems like it's always that way,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “With Memphis being a physical game, it's always that way with Minnesota being just an exciting game, a close game; some terrific performances individually by players.”
Wednesday's game is the fourth and final meeting between the Northwest Division rivals. The Thunder owns a 2-1 lead in the season series. The lone loss was a 19-point loss at Minnesota in the second game of the year on Nov. 11. Wolves All-Star forward Kevin Love scored a game-high 24 points with 12 rebounds in that contest.
Kevin Durant responded with the first of his two triple-doubles this season in the second meeting, a 10-point Thunder win. And Durant dumped in 48 points in a come-from-behind four-point win at Minnesota on Jan. 4.
The Wolves rank third in scoring at 105.9 points per game, while the Thunder ranks fifth at 105 per game.
“They have really good players,” Brooks said of the Wolves. “They're a really good basketball team; well-coached. But we know we're going to have to defend them because they have a skilled group of offensive talent that they put on the floor every night.”
MINNESOTA MISSING ITS BIG MAN
Minnesota is without starting center Nikola Pekovic, who has missed the past four games after sustaining an ankle injury on Jan. 27 at Chicago.
Pekovic is averaging 18 points and 9.1 rebounds this year and has been even better against the Thunder, with averages if 22.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
“It does definitely change a little bit of what we do,” Brooks said. “He's one of the best low-post big guys in the league. He has the strength, he has the touch and he just has the experience to score down low. And our bigs do a good job of making him take tough shots. But not having him, I'm sure they've made some adjustments. But we still have to make sure we guard all their players and not let one guy come in and be a wild card.”
Ronny Turiaf is starting in place of Pekovic.
“Turiaf is a very good role player that can step in and have a very good game, which he's had throughout his career,” Brooks said.
66ERS FALL AT THE PEAKE
The Thunder's NBA Development League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, played the Iowa Energy on Tuesday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Energy downed the 66ers 114-106 in front of almost 1,100 fans on Field Trip Day.
Andre Roberson, on assignment from the Thunder, posted 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals for the 66ers.
The Thunder and 66ers sold more than 12,000 tickets for the game, mostly to school groups from across the state. Since the winter weather kept many from attending, the 66ers and Thunder have arranged for a makeup game, at 11 a.m. March 11 against the Los Angeles D-Fenders, at The Peake. Anyone with tickets to Tuesday's game who was unable to attend can use those same tickets on March 11.
THUNDER CUTS DOWN TURNOVERS
In Saturday's loss at Washington, the Thunder committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter.
In Monday's win over Memphis, the Thunder had 10 turnovers through three quarters.
“We knew if you turned the ball over it just takes you out of your rhythm offensively,” Brooks said. “And it's just a chain reaction. The defense is not as good. The energy is not as good. And then the game ends up not being good. So we wanted to make sure that we took care of the basketball going into that first quarter and not give them easy opportunities.”
Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka is honoring the late Nelson Mandela by writing “RIP MANDIBU” on both of his practice shoes.
“He's one of the guys I can say who really changed the world,” Ibaka explained when asked about the message. “For me, he's a big example for everybody, especially for us in Africa. We are so proud of him and what he did, not only for South Africa but for us.”
Madiba was Mandela's clan name, which emerged shortly after his death in December. The clan or family name represents a person's ancestry. It is considered to be deeper than a surname and used as a sign of respect and affection.