With his first steal, a slashing, sneaky swipe two minutes in, Russell Westbrook had set the tone.
But it was the Thunder guard’s second pilfer, a pick-pocket four minutes later, which provided the momentum that would put the game away.
The Thunder notched a wire-to-wire 109-92 victory over Minnesota on Friday night to snap a two-game losing streak. Oklahoma City reverted to its winning ways by buckling down on the defensive end, and it was Westbrook who captained the charge.
With 10:09 left in the first quarter, Westbrook swooped in and stole an outlet pass by Wolves forward Ryan Gomes and converted an uncontested layup to push the Thunder’s lead to 6-2. And when the Western Conference-worst Wolves hung tight, netting six of their first 11 shots to stay within 17-14, Westbrook did it again. His steal from Wolves rookie guard Jonny Flynn led to a fast-break dunk by Jeff Green and ignited a 13-5 run to end the period.
The Thunder went on to lead by as many as 25. The spirit had spread.
"The guys played very solid defense to start the game off,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "That’s how we need to play, active hands, everybody was in their defensive stance. We had five guys engage defensively. That’s good to see.”
Oklahoma City moved to 34-23 only after holding Minnesota to 40.7 percent shooting, its lowest opponent field-goal percentage since a Feb. 16 home win against Dallas. In close wins at New York last Saturday and at Minnesota on Sunday, the Thunder’s offense carried its defense. But Friday’s effort showed how easy things can be when that trend gets reversed.
Box score from Friday's game