MINNEAPOLIS — Kendrick Perkins couldn't explain it.
No one could, really.
“They played well,” Perkins said, over and over, of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
And the Thunder didn't.
That's about what Friday's 101-93 loss inside the Target Center boiled down to for Oklahoma City.
“I don't think we did a great job of executing on either end of the floor,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We have a level that we want to play every night and sometimes we don't get to that level. Tonight was a night that we didn't get to that level.”
Against a Wolves team with nothing left to play for outside of pride and the possibility of a few additional lottery balls, the Thunder got trounced, taken to the woodshed in just about every way.
Minnesota, despite missing injured star Kevin Love, still managed to manhandle OKC on the boards and score with relative ease inside the paint.
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic once again was a Lake Minnetonka-sized problem, scoring a team-high 22 points with a game-high 15 rebounds. He made 10 of 16 shots and corralled seven of Minnesota's 13 offensive rebounds, which led to 21 Wolves second-chance points.
“He played well,” Perkins said, again over and over, clearly unable to offer a better explanation. “He had a good night tonight. I mean, he had a good night.”
In his last three games against the Thunder, Pekovic averaged 21 points and 11.7 rebounds. On Friday, much like the previous two meetings, Pekovic caused all sorts of problems on post ups, rolls to the rim and hustle plays that led to putbacks.
“He was a handful for them,” said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “They really didn't have an answer for him. He took advantage of it.”
Pekovic exposed the Thunder's inconsistent defensive rebounding, a chronic issue since seemingly forever. In the last six contests the Thunder has allowed 13.8 offensive rebounds. For comparison purposes, Milwaukee ranks last in the category at 12.5 per game. The Thunder entered Friday tied for the third-worst rate, allowing 12 on average.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds,” Brooks said. “That's something that we're trying to correct and we do it but not at a consistent level. We have to figure out that part of our defense. That's when we're really good, when we finish that defense up with a rebound. Tonight that wasn't the case.”
As good as Pekovic was on the inside, Ricky Rubio was every bit as good on the outside, complementing his big man by masterfully running the offense. Rubio scored 17 points with seven assists and just two turnovers.
“The ball was getting wherever it wanted to go tonight,” Brooks said of Minnesota's ball movement.
Oklahoma City, on the other hand, had as many turnovers (16) as assists, although Russell Westbrook dished nine helpers to go with his 18 points. Kevin Durant did all he could offensively, making 13 of 19 shots and all nine of his free throws for 36 points, the most he's scored since Valentine's Day.
But the Thunder's bench was outscored 33-17 in large part because Kevin Martin mustered just four points while missing eight of nine shots. OKC's second unit shot 7 of 25 from the floor.
The Thunder scored just 16 four-quarter points — 10 coming from Durant — and never had a lead in the second half, resulting in the second loss this season at Minnesota.
“They came out and played well,” Perkins said once more. “We didn't come out with the right mindset defensively and it came back to haunt us. We gave them a lot of confidence early and after that we tried to shut if off and it was probably too late.”