When the Minnesota Timberwolves refused to go away, like they seem to do so often against Oklahoma City, the Thunder's two-man team of All-Stars took it upon themselves to put them away.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant overpowered the Wolves in a 127-111 Thunder win on Friday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook scored a game- and season-high 37 points, and Durant added 27 points to help OKC snap a season-long, three-game losing streak and deliver the Thunder its 40th win of the year.
The Thunder led by as many as 18 points and never trailed, though those facts belied how much of a contest Minnesota managed to make it despite still being without star forward Kevin Love due to a broken hand.
At halftime, the Thunder led by only eight points. Minnesota had just manufactured a 35-point second quarter in which it shot 62.5 percent and ripped apart all the defensive improvement the Thunder showed in the opening period, intensity that's been absent for much of the past month. That's when Durant and Westbrook came alive.
The duo combined for 19 points and six assists — four of them to each other — in a third quarter in which the Thunder outscored the Wolves 34-25.
Oklahoma City's eight-point halftime lead swelled to 17 entering the final quarter. The outcome was only a formality from there.
“We wanted to make sure that we set the tone in that third quarter, and I thought they did a good job of coming out and being aggressive and attacking,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of Westbrook and Durant. “They're two very good offensive players, but when they attack like that it opens up a lot of shots for other guys and that's where we were really good tonight.”
The Thunder racked up 28 assists, three shy of tying its season high, and used the ball movement to shoot a blistering 57.8 percent from the floor and generate nine made 3-pointers on just 14 attempts, a 64.3 percent rate.
“It's our job to get guys easy shots, and Russ did a great job,” Durant said. “I just tried to come out and do my part. But I think Russ was really good on the scoring department as far as putting pressure on those guys and making the smaller guys guard him in the post. So he was really good tonight and we just followed his lead.”
Westbrook and Durant each had a game-high tying seven rebounds, matching the totals of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, to help the Thunder win the rebounding game, 41-32. Westbrook added a team-high nine assists. Durant chipped in seven assists.
Alexey Shved scored 17 points off the bench to lead seven Wolves in double figures. Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham scored 15 apiece, J.J. Barea scored 14, Ricky Rubio and Greg Stiemsma had 13 points each and Luke Ridnor finished with 10.
The Wolves shot 48.2 percent and turned the ball over only 10 times, which, coupled with their point total, are unacceptable totals for a Thunder defense that is desperately trying to regain its rhythm.
Still, given the outcome of the past three games, the Thunder was just glad to come out with a 16-point win, its second victory in three games against Minnesota.
“We kind of blew the Houston game. We was up 12 with six minutes left and let that get away,” said Kevin Martin, who added 19 points. “And then we realized we were on a three-game losing streak, so we just wanted to come in here and get back to playing how we know how to play.”