The score was 16-16 after the first quarter of Wednesday night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks was far more pleased than he was disgusted.
“I'll put up with the bad offense as long as we're not down 16 to 30,” Brooks said. “But you know what, some nights are going to be like that. We're going to be running in mud, our shots are not going to fall, but our defense was really consistent throughout the game. I thought sooner or later if we just continued to defend, we would create some opportunities.”
OKC trailed 20-16 with 10:30 left in the second quarter and from that point forward outscored the Timberwolves 90-64 to post a 106-84 victory in front of a sellout crowd 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder is second in the NBA in scoring at 105.4, so generating offense rarely is a concern.
“We will take that any day,” three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant said of a 16-16 tie after the first 12 minutes. “We are not worried about our offense. We always say we can give ourselves a chance to win if our offense isn't clicking, but we play defense. The guys were doing a great job of helping each other out. We were talking, switching and rebounding the ball, too. If we do those things, it is a great ingredient for winning so we have to keep it up.”
Thunder reserve forward Nick Collison freely admitted the first period was not aesthetically pleasing.
“It was an ugly game early, but we were happy we weren't giving them easy shots,” Collison said. “It was more of a priority to stop guys and really be up and be where we're supposed to be. Usually, most games we're going to score. We're one of the better offensive teams in the league so we have to be good defensively to get where we want to go.”
The Thunder shot 28.6 percent from the field in the first quarter, but never dipped below 52 percent thereafter — 52.9 percent in the second period, 57.9 percent in the third and 52.6 percent in the final period to finish at 47.4 percent after missing 17 of its first 23 shots from the floor.
Oddly enough, OKC shot 55.0 percent (11 for 20) on 3-pointers and 44.6 percent (25 for 56) on 2-point attempts.
TURN IN TURNOVERS
The Thunder also was able to pull away thanks to better ball security.
OKC had five turnovers in the first quarter, three in the second, three in the third and two in the fourth to finish with 13, which Minnesota turned into 16 points.
Meanwhile, the Thunder turned 19 Timberwolves turnovers into 26 points.
OKC now plays nine of its next 10 on the road. Its only home game between Thursday and Jan. 31 is next Wednesday against Denver.
The Thunder plays at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, at Portland on Sunday, at Phoenix on Monday, home against Denver, at Dallas on Jan. 18, at Denver on Jan. 20, at the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 22, at Golden State on Jan. 23, at Sacramento on Jan. 25 and at the Lakers on Jan. 27.
OKC is 18-3 at home and 9-5 on the road.
The Thunder out-rebounded Minnesota (39-38), which entered No. 2 in the NBA in rebounding. … OKC outscored the Wolves 23-8 in fast-break points, 9-7 in second-chance points and the teams tied 42-42 in points in the paint. … The Timberwolves were nowhere near full-strength and were missing starting forward Kevin Love (hand), backup point guard J.J. Barea (back spasms) and reserve guard Malcolm Lee (knee). … In attendance were former Oklahoma quarterback and 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, former OU linebacker Ronnell Lewis of the Detroit Lions, former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns and former OSU wrestler/mixed martial artist Randy Couture.
Collison on playing Friday night at Staples Center against the Lakers, who are 15-20 overall, have lost five straight and have yet to win in 2013: “They're going to have a sense of urgency and they've got a lot of talent. Every time we go in there, it's going to be a difficult game. We'll have to be ready to go. We'll have to play well to win, for sure.”